keyboard keys on a styrofoam background; the keys spell out "FUCK HATE"

When Hate Hits Close to Home

Update: WTHR cov­ered the events described below.

Twen­ty-one years ago, I met a kid in the neigh­bor­hood my mom, my sis­ter, and I had moved into. It was a Fri­day after­noon, and we hung out on our front porch, look­ing at and trad­ing col­lectible com­ic book cards, a hob­by I had recent­ly tak­en up and which he was leaps and bounds ahead of me in.

We were well under­way with our card trades when my dad arrived to pick my sis­ter and me up for the week­end, at which point my friend and I real­ized we did­n’t even know each oth­er’s names!

As we got to know each oth­er, I’d learn that Chris — his name is Chris, by the way — very much enjoyed com­ic books; if mem­o­ry serves me, the walls of his room were lined with comics dis­played in plas­tic sleeves. I’d also come to find out that the guy had a pas­sion for pranks. I remem­ber he tried to con­vince me that he had a twin, and that I could tell them apart by the direc­tion the hair swirled on the crown of their head. Chris also had a few of the younger kids in the neigh­bor­hood con­vinced that behind the shrubs by his house was a por­tal which led to a realm of drag­ons, so that was fun.

As we grew up, I moved to a neigh­bor­hood a few streets over and made friends with a new group of kids. Of course, I had to bring Chris into that group! He fit right in, and the pranks nat­u­ral­ly con­tin­ued, though usu­al­ly at my expense, such as when he and our friend Michael tried to con­vince me that they had become vam­pires. That was a weird cou­ple of weeks.

Vam­pires. A mon­ster in the woods near the house. Our own pet ceme­tery. Believ­ing one of us to be demon-pos­sessed. An exor­cism on a house­hold. Fun times! Inno­cent, naïve times.

I loved my town grow­ing up, and I cer­tain­ly nev­er under­stood the hate shown to it by so many of my peers. I still love my com­mu­ni­ty, but it’s far less rosy than it was back in those days of childhood. 

I’ve noticed more Con­fed­er­ate flags on dis­play than I ever did grow­ing up. I encounter more peo­ple open-car­ry­ing pis­tols than I ever had before, in all the years I’ve worked with the pub­lic. Fear and para­noia have start­ed boil­ing up toward the sur­face of soci­ety, and the rise of Don­ald Trump has seemed to turn up the heat, so to speak.

I know racism and the ten­sions that go along with it have always been present in Amer­i­ca, but (and again, I was and am naïve) those things always seemed to be part of his­to­ry, not some­thing which I’d live to see any sub­stan­tial exam­ples of.

But then George Zim­mer­man mur­dered Trayvon Mar­tin in 2013, lead­ing to a nation­wide dis­cus­sion of “stand your ground” law and racial injus­tice, as Zim­mer­man was found to be not guilty and allowed to go free. Just over a year lat­er, Offi­cer Dar­ren Wil­son shot and killed Michael Brown in an inci­dent which led to height­ened ten­sions, protests, and even riots on the streets of Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, a moment in his­to­ry which I fol­lowed appre­hen­sive­ly via Twit­ter and main­stream media. Things which before had exist­ed to me only on the page of his­to­ry books were now tran­spir­ing about 350 miles from my doorstep, and I was wit­ness­ing it in real time.

The fer­vor for Black Lives Mat­ter has reached a fever pitch over the past few years, as inci­dent after inci­dent of black peo­ple unjust­ly los­ing their lives to those sworn to serve and pro­tect them occured. Racism would pour forth against our First Fam­i­ly, black actors and actress­es, and more. Those who would nev­er call them­selves racists did every­thing they could do to dis­count Black Lives Mat­ter or to excuse the deaths of so many at the hands of so-called civ­il servants.

And while all of this is going on, Don­ald fuck­ing Trump has risen to become one of the most promi­nent politi­cians in Amer­i­ca, gar­ner­ing the sup­port of white suprema­cists, the KKK, and all man­ner of oth­er­wise igno­rant masses.

Trump’s brazen mis­an­thropy has been direct­ed toward just about every­body who isn’t a white male, yet half the coun­try sup­ports him for some rea­son or another.

Yet he has giv­en a voice to the hate­ful in this coun­try. Trump has legit­imized hate. The media by and large has allowed it to hap­pen, giv­ing him plat­form after plat­form, spot­light after spot­light to teach the world how to hate.

What was once on the pages of my his­to­ry books was now a few per­cent­age points away from hold­ing the high­est office in the land.

And this morn­ing, the hate reached my com­mu­ni­ty. My friend Chris announced it on Facebook:

Philip­pi Ear­ly Church of God in Christ — a pre­dom­i­nate­ly black holi­ness church in a part of town where I’ve lived and worked through­out my life — was van­dal­ized with a racial slur and Nazi imagery. Out and vocal hate was no longer part of the his­to­ry books. It was no longer some­thing from the media. It was right here, with­in walk­ing distance.

After see­ing Chris’ post, I showed my wife Jade in shock, and with­out hes­i­ta­tion, she sug­gest­ed we go to the church to see if there was any­thing we could do to helpMy wife noticed Chris’ post before I had, and sug­gest­ed with­out hes­i­ta­tion that we go over to the church to see if there was any­thing we could do to help.

Upon arrival, we met Elder Thur­man, an eighty-six year old man who had been with that church since its found­ing in 1983. He was there alone prepar­ing to paint the doors, hav­ing just fin­ished sand­ing the graf­fi­ti off of them.

We intro­duced our­selves, and we were giv­en a tour of the church build­ing. He said that the church often isn’t even open, that they shut down for sea­sons at a time. There isn’t even elec­tric­i­ty turned on at the church right now! The sanc­tu­ary of the church was not much big­ger than a quaint wed­ding chapel might be, and it was dwarfed in size by the fel­low­ship hall and kitchen behind it.

Elder Thur­man was warm and wel­com­ing and seemed gen­uine­ly unsure why any­body would have van­dal­ized the church in that way.

After the tour, he allowed us to repaint the doors while he ran an errand. I shared an in-progress shot to Chris’ Face­book thread to assure him that the van­dal­ism was being tak­en care of, which end­ed up being shared on Mia Nick­el’s timeline:

After Elder Thur­man returned and while we fin­ished up paint­ing, a cou­ple of oth­er folks asso­ci­at­ed with local reli­gious groups did stop by to offer sup­port and well-wishes.

When the paint­ing was fin­ished, we shook the elder’s hand and left, hop­ing that that sort of inci­dent will nev­er occur again in our town. Hope springs eter­nal, right?

Not two days ago, I expressed con­cern over how screwed up this world is in light of the fact that I’m rais­ing my daugh­ter in it; that was before hate came home, so to speak. Now with­in me I feel anger. Heart­break. Rage.

Rage toward Don­ald Trump for being a fuck­ing fear-mon­ger, for court­ing the white suprema­cist vote, for legit­imiz­ing hate.

Rage toward the media for legit­imiz­ing Don­ald Trump as a can­di­date and treat­ing him in any oth­er way rather than as the spoiled, hate­ful child he is.

Rage against police depart­ments which shel­ter racist offi­cers who unjust­ly kill black indi­vid­u­als in a man­ner not all that dis­sim­i­lar from the Roman Catholic Church shel­ter­ing pædophilic priests. (And fuck all of this while we’re at it.)

Rage toward con­ser­v­a­tives whose mod­er­ate racism and micro-aggres­sions embold­en those with more extreme hate.

Rage toward reli­gions which bake dis­crim­i­na­tion right into their his­to­ries. We’ll nev­er move past hate until we can set aside the Bible and any oth­er holy book which con­tains divine endorse­ments of sex­ism, racism, homo­pho­bia, and hate, hate, hate. #Sec­u­larNow.

Rage against a soci­ety that is so fuck­ing fear­ful and para­noid of any­thing that is “dif­fer­ent” that my black, trans­gen­der, and gay friends and fam­i­ly live in fear or face active per­se­cu­tion and mis­treat­ment in the lives for no oth­er rea­son than who they are.

It was head­line news very recent­ly that the New York Times would call Trump’s lies out as lies, but that’s too lit­tle, too late.

The prob­lem isn’t that Trump is a liar, it’s that he is an ego­tis­ti­cal nar­cis­sist with no empa­thy, no com­pas­sion, and an over­whelm­ing abun­dance of hate toward all the right groups to win over approx­i­mate­ly half of this country.

Fuck Don­ald Trump. Fuck the latent racism that this coun­try has held onto for so long. Fuck those who are embold­ened by Trump and those like him to act out in van­dal­ism, vio­lence, voice, or vote in cel­e­bra­tion or con­tin­u­a­tion of hate.

We must be bet­ter than what we are. We must over­come hate in any way that we can, no mat­ter what form that takes and no mat­ter which hate it over­comes: a fresh coat of paint, stand­ing sup­por­t­ive­ly out­side a restroom, tak­ing a knee for injus­tice, or what­ev­er else it might be. When hatred comes to your com­mu­ni­ty, don’t just draw a line over which it must­n’t cross, shine a spot­light on it, tun the hate on its head and overcome.

Give your chil­dren a future and a her­itage they can be proud of: FUCK HATE.

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Rick Beckman