The sun wasn’t doing anything to help things. Sweat began to pool under my collar, causing an unbearable urge to scratch—made worse by the fact that I couldn’t move a muscle. I stamped my foot in frustration as the word escaped my lips.
To be honest, it was the first thing that I thought of. I stood there, watching my classmate crumple in front of me as tears began to well in her eyes. This, I think, was when I committed my first hate crime.
I was seven.
I’m neither particularly proud of this moment nor ashamed of what happened. I don’t view myself as exceptionally racist, but I recognize my biases. This story is important to me because it reminds me that we are all capable of committing hate crimes—these are not things that are just perpetuated by other people. I can recall the way that I felt on that day in second grade and I realize that people engaging in these heinous acts must feel something similar. This is not to say that any amount of prejudice is acceptable, but I think that it is important to be just as hard on ourselves as we are on others.
In my last post, I talked a bit about power and I think that some of the same ideas apply to this week. This time, however, it’s personal. How do we react to our perceived loss of power? What do we do when we’re up against a wall? When we’re strung out and broken? When we think that there’s a demon inside of us? What do we look like when we’re grasping at straws? We’ll use anything, and everything, that we can to try get back to where we once were. Calling to mind scenes from True Blood, it’s Tara throwing things off of the mantle to make herself feel better, it’s Jason willing to dance on a webcam, it’s Lettie Mae pulling her cards out left and right. There’s so much in the show about possession, and drawing lines, and standing your ground. Who has the power? Who wants it? Who needs it? Who doesn’t have it? Who merely feels like he doesn’t have it?
Recall the idea of “the Other,” as well: power is all about the “haves” and the “have nots.” It’s about the fear that stems from feeling powerless and misusing power. It’s personifying the fear that we have into characters that we can relate to, and, more importantly, name.
Shows like this, or Battlestar Gallactica, are interesting in our post-9/11 world because they are so much about the powerless striking out in fear against those who they think can harm them. It’s weird to me, because I don’t think people become terrorists (or individuals who commit hate crimes) unless they feel like they are backed against a wall and don’t have much to lose. Terrorism is the language of the oppressed, of the beaten down, and of the people who are desperate to regain a semblance of power and control. Our fear of those who we perceive as more powerful is one of those dirty things that we don’t like to think about because I think it makes us too similar to “terrorists.” There’s certainly the whole X-Men/mutant thing where we see people with powers vs. people without them but it’s the same story over and over with different characters and us playing different roles. It’s no wonder that we respond to these sorts of stories when so much of our history has been a power struggle over various things—perhaps we’ve been programmed to identify with this concept.