Updated: Mar 13
“I felt humiliated, I was in shock,” the 18-year-old said after a white woman started yelling at her and her family inside the Coast Guard Restaurant in Narragansett. “It made me feel unwelcome.”
“Go back where you came from,” the woman had shouted, adding some racially charged language.
The defendant’s attorney argued that his client’s comments did not meet the state’s definition of a hate crime. Under Rhode Island law, a hate crime does not need to be motivated solely by bigotry or bias; rather the evidence must show that the offense was motivated, at least in part, by the defendant’s animus toward the victim’s protected status. Don't you find yourself wondering:
Why did the woman feel compelled to disparage a family waiting in line for dinner?
How does the concept of protected status work to alienate some people?
Why do people hate like this?
When does bias based on stereotypes, rather than actual knowledge of an individual or circumstance, turn ugly? And what can we do to overcome these inner negative tendencies and live more satisfying lives?
Those are the types of questions that peace activists are asking. Instead of reacting, we can build a coalition of empowered people who recognize, analyze, and resist harmful forms of expression and communication. We can host open, engaging, and respectful dialogues about the many different forms of media that we watch, see, and read to try to see how other people interpret their worlds.
We know that hate is a very complex emotion. From low self-esteem to loneliness and the fear of the unknown, one thing is certain: it’s easier to hate groups of people than individuals. We need to learn how to focus on seeing people as individuals rather than as stereotypes. We know as well that when we stay curious, rather than furious, we are more ready to step back, breathe deeply, and release pain.
Sometimes it is best to ignore hurtful statements and realize that they are simply spoken because the accuser is under the false impression that slander will set their own futures into motion. We can choose to take a different direction and join others seeking to amplify positive, diverse voices in the community to create a better place for all. Our Rhode Island communities can challenge bigotry through targeted government action, broad educational programs, and harnessing the power of citizens statewide.
Hopefully, the family who felt humiliated in Narragansett has risen above the hatred with help from loving and nurturing family, friends, and other support systems. Their resilience and hope for a better tomorrow is an essential element of transformation and inner peace.