Emotional Health

How to Understand Hate

Dear Dr. Ford,

I live in a small Connecticut town in the northwestern part of the state.  Bucolic, peaceful, interesting people, privacy with a feeling of stepping back in time. I had guests this weekend.  She is African American and he is Jewish.  I had planned to take them and their two very savvy but sensitive teenage girls to the local fair.  I grew up with fairs like this, with competitions for best pig, best pie, and, back in the day, Miss County Fair! There were to be Ferris wheels and silly games of chance that are part of this kind of traveling-carnival life. This fair raises money for the local volunteer fire department and ambulance—very worthy causes.

We arrived at 6 p.m. to find that my guests were the only people of color in the large group of people attending the fair.  The first large tent on the right was selling merchandise, and we decided to look around. A portion of each sale was to be donated to the ambulance and fire departments.  I was horror-struck when I saw a display of Confederate flag- themed bikinis and belt buckles. No semi-automatic weapons, but this collection shocked me . . . it would have at any time, but to display these Confederate flag themed items of clothing seven days after the KKK and the right- wing protesters descended on Charlottesville, resulting in fear across the nation and the death of a 32-year-old woman from deliberate violence, seemed to show callous disregard for how the Confederate flag has become a symbol of hate. We left the fair, and the evening was much more serious after that.  We discussed hatred for people “not like us” in America and how it is everywhere.  I didn’t know how to apologize to these two lovely girls. I know they will remember this evening for the rest of their lives.  I know this happens every day in every town in America.  How can we stop this cycle of hatred?



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