So one thing I’m not seeing mentioned much but that I think is really important to acknowledge is: not every member of a hate group is equally radicalized.
See, a lot of our rhetoric re: dealing with them assumes that every member is a hardened lifetimer. But there are always many, many lackeys to every kingpin. Not every terrorist sympathizer is Osama bin Laden. Cultlike movements are largely composed of people who are isolated or gullible or otherwise vulnerable. Their leaders know this. They capitalize on an underlying dysfunction and turn it into something monstrous. In any such movement, there will be people who have doubts but fear being crushed for their dissent. And those are the people it’s critically important to reach out to.
I think a lot of people assume that compassionate outreach is about, like, nicely asking hardened leaders to stop. It’s not! I frankly resent seeing pacifism strawmanned so badly. It’s about undermining those leaders’ bases. It’s about getting through to people who aren’t yet in too deep. When we write them off as exactly as bad as the people recruiting and manipulating them, we’re implicitly yielding ground. We’re ceding a huge number of potential allies to hateful causes, and I am not willing to do that. I want as many people on the side of good as possible. To do that, we have to be willing to get in and help deradicalize.
It’s laughable to expect that someone like S p e n c e r will just wake up one day and realize he’s wrong. It’s not impossible, but it’s not worth banking on. But what about an eighteen-year-old flirting with dangerous ideologies? Isn’t giving up on him implicitly ceding him to S p e n c e r ‘ s side? Do not conflate the psychological profile of someone who’s just beginning to become radicalized with that of someone who’s been entrenched for decades. That difference matters.
This is something I need to remind myself more often.
And it’s also one of the areas where I feel that allies can be the most useful and important. Someone who is the target of a hate group’s hate CANNOT be expected to expose themselves to those people, taking on physical and emotional risk, in the name of building bridges. But allies can.
I actually feel – and here again, I’m giving advice to myself more than anyone – that for allies, the kind of anger and withdrawal that’s 100% justified in the targeted group is an indulgence for us. Not that we can’t get angry too, not that we can’t take a step back for mental health reasons or just to rest. But in a lot of cases, if we really want to help, the best way we can help is by doing the difficult emotional labor of not getting angry (even if we really, really want to be angry) and instead putting ourselves out there calmly to have those hard and miserable conversations. It’s being strong enough to not blow off steam by posting a billion furious memes to Facebook so our relatives or friends-of-friends write us off as someone who can’t be reasoned with, but instead managing to stay calm in the face of a dozen difficult conversations to try to convince them that our point of view has merit, and having the patience to gently point them to primary resources and “own voices” sources on whatever-it-is so they can learn more about it from a good, authentic source.
There is a lot of research that suggests whatever your difference is (religious differences, political differences, ideological differences over something like abortion) that getting to know people on the opposite side, getting to see them as people instead of ~the enemy~, has a real and tangible effect on making someone more open-minded. And I want to stress, like I said at the top, that it is not the job of people in a particular oppressed group to try to change someone’s mind about it. But allies can help with that.
Reposted from http://ift.tt/2m0E6QS.