As events of the past weeks have unfolded, we, like many of our fellow Americans, watch in shock and horror as terrible traumatic acts are being committed primarily agast minority groups -- namely people of color, queer people, Muslims. Hijabs being pulled from women's heads is trauma. Swastikas and "white power" graffitied on sides of buildings is trauma. Gay and lesbian couples called derogatory names is trauma. Immigrants told to go back to their own country is trauma. These actions do not represent "American" values. Bigotry and hate always causes psychological trauma. All violence, toward anyone creates trauma. Responding with violence only creates more victims. Violence, hatred, and bigotry never lead toward the individual and collective community peace and justice most Americans crave.
Bigotry and hate are human nature at its ugliest. Bigotry and hate inject trauma and paralyzing fear into our lives and communities. The psychological trauma that results from bigotry and hate has the potential to become normalized. Relationships break down. Traumatized individuals and communities are easier to control by those in power who do not authentically have our best interest in mind. We cannot let this happen. We cannot let the worst of human nature take the best of us.
Here's the thing...that woman whose Hijab they pulled from her head? She may be a mom or a college student who was already self-conscious and was closely monitoring her environment for angry glares and suspicious stares. That gay couple may have been together for 20 years and just celebrated their right to marry. The "immigrant" may have been part of a family who has been here for three generations, and whose ancestors helped build the transcontinental railway system. Parents who are working three jobs to provide for their family with limited resources are blamed for their poverty. They are not seen as people who have families, who love their children, who want to better their future and their descendants' futures, who send their hard-earned money back home to ensure that their siblings can go to school. No, they were judged by a single dimension. Solely by their outward appearance, by who they were holding hands with, by the color of their skin, by their accent, by the clothing they wear.
At the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute, we teach how to identify and address individual and collective psychological trauma, break the cycles of violence caused by bigotry and hate, and build resilience together to empower us all to build peace with powerful restorative justice in the face of terrible actions. We must create safe spaces and stay together. We must ensure our anger and rage is passionately bridled with love in action. Then we can be leaders within our own spheres of influence to transform bigotry and hate in every small or large way we can. Individual and community nonviolent direct actions can include acts such as calling our representatives, joining community sings for justice and peace, doing art to inspire positive change, teaching our children, running for local office, and intervening with positive productive alternatives to revenge when hateful bigoted actions are directed at those within our spheres of influence. Courageously, together we can instigate justice and build peace within our lives and communities. Not sure how to do this? Please join us at Peacebuilding’s upcoming trainings and events. Together, we can use positive, productive alternatives to revenge to transform psychological trauma into nonviolent power.