We shouldn't hate the unknown

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 2/22/18 3:11am

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In an event that took place Tuesday, Feb. 20, musician and author Daryl Davis spoke to Grand Valley State University students about the events and research that inspired his book "Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan." Davis spoke candidly of his experiences befriending members of the KKK to try to understand their point of view and connect with them, all with the goal of relieving racial tensions.

One of the key points of Davis' speech was that we fear things we don't know. When he very first experienced an act of racism at age 10, he questioned, "How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?" 

During the event, Davis said, “Ignorance breeds fear. We fear those things we don’t understand. If we don’t put a lid on that fear and keep that fear in check, that fear in turn will breed hatred because we hate those things that frighten us.

"If we don’t keep that hatred in check, that hatred in turn will breed destruction. We want to destroy those things that we hate. Why? Because they frighten us. But guess what? They may have been harmless and we were just ignorant.”

If you think about what Davis is saying on a much smaller scale, you will likely realize the unsettling truth of his words. How often do we fear things we don't understand, and how frequently does this fear turn to hatred for no valid reason? Many people are afraid of spiders and at one point or another have likely said, "I hate spiders." Now, think about this in terms of people—living, breathing people—who are hated solely because they are misunderstood. 

We could overcome a lot of what stands between people of different beliefs if we could "bridge the gap" and try to understand each other better before we make such harsh judgments. We so often are paralyzed by our fear of the unknown, and not only does it prevent us from experiencing the world, learning about other cultures and getting to know so many incredible people, but it also causes us to feel baseless bitterness. This is where bias stems from, too. 

One example of this is a fake news story about the city of Dearborn, Michigan, which began to make the rounds around the internet in early 2018. Dearborn is commonly known as being the U.S. city with the highest Arab-American population, and the fake news story asserted that ISIS members were caught in the city. 

Dearborn's high Muslim-American population makes it an easy target for hate. But if those who have fears of the city or the people who live in it took the time to actually set foot in Dearborn and its communities, they would see hard-working Americans who are not that different from themselves. However, rather than people basing their assessments off their own authentic experiences, they base it off their fear(s). 

That sentiment coincides with Davis'. Davis is an example of someone who takes the steps to ease the tension between people who haven't even met or misunderstand one another. We should all follow Davis' steps and look to take action to alleviate our fears, too.  

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