In spite of hate, or perhaps because of it, we read on.
Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of sharing a post and a piece of my heart on the Nerdy Book Club blog. The post was about the upcoming HRC day of action on Thursday, April 28th. On this day, HRC is asking people across the country to hold community readings of Jazz Jenning’s beautiful picture book I am Jazz in order to show support for transgender youth.
I was incredibly proud to be a part of this beautiful blog and I was proud to share a message on the importance, especially right now, of reading books with transgender characters. As I went to share the post again a few nights ago, I was met with several extremely hateful responses. Not responses from people who were respectfully disagreeing with the actions I was proposing. Not responses from people who were pointing out alternative view points. But responses filled with hate. Pure and venomous hatred.
And I sat with that hate, I imagined a child hearing those words. I sat with that hate and realized that I know so little of what a person who is transgender must experience during a lifetime. I sat with that hate and at first I wanted to hide from it. Ignore it. Block it.
But then I thought about someone who saw those hateful messages and then looked to see the responses and saw none. Now I know that when people choose not to engage with hate on the internet, it is a powerful choice in some ways. Choosing to be the bigger person, to not engage in nonsense, to know that you are not going to change the minds and hearts of people set on hatred. I understand all of those reasons and fully support them.
But for me, when I saw those messages of hate, I eventually realized that I had to respond. Because I wanted any child, or any other human, who saw the hate expressed, to also see the love and acceptance that exists in this world that I believe will one day win out. I did not want anyone to see that this hate was met with silence because there is far too much silence these days.
In so many ways, it is not the small, vocal hateful minority that exists in this world that scares me the most. What scares me more is the much larger, kind-hearted majority that often choose to sit silently by. This group of people is more frightening to me because they are the ones who allow the hate to continue.
When enough of the people who are a part of the kind-hearted majority make the choice to stand up and speak up, then those who preach hate will finally be silenced. However, when the kind-hearted majority chooses to remain silent, that is when those who speak hate are allowed to do the things that are most frightening to me.
And so I chose to not stay silent.
And what I will remember most about my brief encounter with hate on the internet is how many people around me also chose to not stay silent. People quickly saw the messages that I was receiving and they were there. They were there in a big way. They spoke up. They stood up. They defended me. But more importantly, they defended the children that this hate was really directed to.
And while I wish that I did not have to see, up close, the online ugliness that exists, I am also grateful for the reminders of the hate. Because they served as a reminder of why we must do what we are doing.
It is easy to hide ourselves from hate. It is ugly and it is unsettling and it is upsetting. But it is there. Hiding from it, pretending it doesn’t exist, only celebrating the progress while ignoring that which still needs to be done, that does us no good. Because that is how we slip back into a world where hateful legislation passes through congress and people continue to be attacked for being who they are.
So we have a choice. We remain silent or we speak up. We remain a part of the problem or we work, every single day, to try and make the world a better place by using our voices to combat hate. We speak up when we see or hear hatred. Not because we believe we are going to change the minds of those who are filled with hate who are doing the speaking, but because we want those who are being hurt by the hate to know that we are with them. That we will fight alongside them. That we do not agree nor do we accept hatred. That we will send messages of love and acceptance every time we see one filled with hate and ignorance.
For any child who has to hear a hateful comment in their lifetime, I hope that they will hear ten times as many comments filled with love and acceptance. But that will ONLY happen if we choose to not stay silent.
So next Thursday, April 28th, I will read I am Jazz to both of my fifth grade classes. I will read it, just like I had always planned to do, but I will read it with even more urgency than I had before. I will read it as a way to model for my students what it looks like to choose not to stay silent in the face of hatred. I will read it as a way to show my students the power of hearing stories from the lives of other people. I will read it as a way to help make sure that my students will not grow up one day to be the speakers of hate, but instead be the ones who will speak messages of love and acceptance. I will read it to show my students that even when people use hate and intimidation to try to stop us from doing what is right, we still have the choice to let our hearts guide us instead of our fear. I will read it to demonstrate to my students that one of the ways we have to fight back against the hatred in this world is through our books.
So in spite of the hate. Or perhaps because of it. We will read on.
And I do hope that others will join me.
To find out more about HRC’s day of action, just visit their website HERE.