Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

9. Listen to all sides of the story, even if you think someone is ignorant or hateful

Personally, I don’t want to give bigots the time of day.  If you’re racist or sexist or homophobic, I’m not going to waste my time talking to you.

But that’s the easy way out.

People have hateful opinions because they’ve been taught to hate and they’re afraid, not because they’re naturally awful.

As Glenn Greenwald has frequently argued on the free speech debate, it’s better to listen to someone’s point of view than to silence them.  Hate speech should be decried, but it’s shouldn’t be muzzled.  Forcing someone to stop publicly sharing his or her opinion won’t stop them from holding those views.

Instead, it’s better to listen and argue counterpoints based on logic and facts.

Some people don’t listen to either of these and they’re frustrating.  I know a guy who frequently posts anti-feminist remarks on Facebook and refuses to apologize even though people respond by pointing out flaws in his arguments.  Part of me wants to defriend him and never read his ignorant bullshit again.

But what would that accomplish?  He holds those views because he spends a lot of time on Reddit, surrounded by other males who believe the same things.  It’s easy to convince yourself you’re right when it feels like everyone else has the same opinion.

Instead, don’t settle for the easy way out.  Stay friends (real life friends, not only Facebook friends) with people that hold different beliefs.

Last year, a classmate told me that she could never date someone who voted for Harper.

“I could never date someone who’d say something like that,” I laughed.

Even though I’m a lefty socialist who can’t stand Harper, I understand why a lot of people vote for him.  Lots of my friends voted for him.  Much worse, I think, is someone who refuses to stay open-minded.


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2 thoughts on “9. Listen to all sides of the story, even if you think someone is ignorant or hateful

  1. patrickbvmiller on said:

    I could never read a blog by someone who wouldn’t date someone who wouldn’t date someone for voting for Harper. Kidding! I think that’s the most convoluted sentence I have ever written.

    I tend to agree with you that silencing a perspective doesn’t route the systems that gave that perspective life. I heard a great lecture one time talking about violence and hate that combined psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and some Buddhist thought. The summary of it was: when someone is violent or racist, they are not an individual being violent, but an individual channeling the violence or racism that has surrounded them their whole life, which has caused violence and not compassion to sprout. It’s an idea that has stuck with me since, and it sounds like that’s where you’re writing from too.

  2. Pingback: Ways to Help from Home | Rebuilding Foundations

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