Hate speech. It’s all around us. Part of me misses the early days of parenting when I had almost all the control on what my children were exposed to. I could shelter them from the ugly parts of the world. Of course they need to learn the truth as they get older. The world can be a dark place. And it’s important that they learn how to deal with darkness, especially while still at home. We want our children to stand up for what is right even if they stand alone. Teaching about history and our past can help our children make better choices in the future. As we strive to teach about kindness and doing what is right, even when we might stand alone, we can prepare them for the days ahead. And when they come across unkindness or wickedness I hope they will be ready to do what is right.
I’ve been thinking about this topic for a family night lesson for awhile. I’m always looking for chances to remind my kids that kindness and character count. But when I was volunteering at my son’s school and heard such hateful language I knew I needed to have a family night lesson. Please adjust this lesson to fit the ages of your children. These ideas are designed to help facilitate conversations. And remember how important it is to listen, really listen, to what your kids think. When children have parents who are willing and wanting to hear their ideas it fills their emotional bank account.
Family Night Lesson: Avoiding Hate Speech
Opening Prayer: by invitation
Song: Love One Another
- How can words build people up?
- What is something someone has said to you that made you feel good?
Words are powerful things. They can encourage, lift, and invite the spirit. But words can also be used to make people feel bad.
- What are some examples of unkind words? (examples may be teasing, swearing, gossiping, or name calling)
One example of using our words to tear down others is called hate speech.
Photo by Joseph Gonzalez
Hate speech is speech which attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.
In the cartoon Star Wars: Clone Wars the republic is at war with the Separatists. The republic is made up of humans and aliens, some of them are in the Jedi order. The Separatists are fighting through the use of droids. This cartoon takes place between Star Wars episode Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. At the end of episode II Yoda brings in Clone Troopers to help fight the the huge droid army. Spoiler Alert: both armies are created by the Sith. The cartoon Clone Wars is about the adventures of the republic as they fight the awful droid army.
What does this have to do with hate speech?
Sometimes when we teach our children about hard things it’s easier to explain things when we simplify it. It’s easy to side with the Jedi and clones in the movies. But the clones commonly refer to droids as “clankers”. And let’s me honest. Droid are not programmed to be nice. But by calling them “clankers” the clones are using hate speech. They are being unkind and their intent is dehumanize them. Now technically droids are human to begin with. But does make it okay?
- How do you feel when you hear clones call the droid “clankers”?
- Do they deserve it?
- Have you ever heard the Jedi call them “clanker’s”? Why do you think that is?
Sometimes people will call a group of people a derogatory name. Derogatory is showing a critical or disrespectful attitude. This is hate speech. And it’s never okay.
- Can you think of an example in literature when you heard hate speech? (Give each child a chance to talk about the name and how it made them feel)
The adversary wants to create contention and discord. Hate speech is the first step in treating a group like they are valed less than others. When you refer to someone by a derogatory name it’s like saying they are less than human, and it becomes easier to treat them like they are less. Each of us is a child of God and deserves to be treated as such.
Another powerful example of hate speech is the word “mudblood” from Harry Potter. In the second book, Chamber of Secrets we hear Draco call Hermonie a terrible name. Ron, quick to defend his friends, shot a spell at him. Unfortunately things didn’t work out the way Ron planned. They end up at Hagrid’s hut (a game keeper and friend) trying to help Ron. Hagrid asks Ron why he got so upset and Harry tells him Draco called Hermonie a terrible name. Harry confesses he doesn’t know what it means and we learn it means dirty blood. Hermonie, the cleverest witch in her year, was born to parents who were muggles, or non magic people. Some people, Draco included, thought that only wizards with pure blood should learn magic. J.K. Rowling is able to teach children through her books about discrimination. Explain this part of the book to your kids or if they have already read Chamber of Secrets ask the questions below.
- What name does Draco call Hermonie? What does it mean?
- Is someone’s worth based of their parents lineage? Are some people superior?
- What would you have done if you were there?
- What can we learn from this story?
There are many examples in books, movies, and history of hate speech. One example is when Lightening McQueen was complaining about his sponsor and those “rusty old cars”. Mater questioned him, “What’s wrong with rusty old cars?”. McQueen countered that the comment didn’t apply to him, but other rusty old cars. But that is not the way it works. If we complain about a race or religion or group, we can’t excuse some people and think we aren’t being offensive. It’s all or nothing.
- Have you ever heard hate speech at school?
Some of our kids may not have encountered hate speech quite yet. And I wouldn’t suggest giving them suggestions, but rather we should teach that hate speech is to be avoided. If they hear and word and wonder what it means let your kids know they can always come and ask you about it. Sometimes the way a word is said can give us a clue. If your kids have heard derogatory words at school continue talking about them about those experiences.
- How did that word make you feel?
- How do you think the person felt when that word directed at them?
- What can we do when we hear words or phrases we know aren’t right.
Photo by frank mckenna
Sometimes there are people we disagree with, but it is never okay to use such speech. I think about the 6th book in the Harry Potter series, where Dumbledore reproves his attacker for using such foul language. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
Invite your children to stand up for others when such language is used. And encourage them to never speak that way, even if the offended party isn’t present. Bear testimony that each of us is a child of God and that as we stand up for others we are following The Lord.
Treat Idea: Loaded M&M Oreo Cookie Bars (the reminder that all colors are beautiful, especially when they are together)
Family Follow Up
One thing our family is almost able to do is take our oldest son to the Museum of Tolerance. I’ve only been once and it was something I will never forget. Before we go I want him to read Anne Franks’s Diary. As you walk through this museum you learn more than the our history. I love this excerpt from their site:
“The decision was made to create a museum – but not an ordinary museum of artifacts and documents. As Simon Wiesenthal expressed, it must not only remind us of the past, but remind us to act. This Museum should serve to prevent hatred and genocide from occurring to any group now and in the future. The daunting task was to create an experience that would challenge people of all backgrounds to confront their most closely-held assumptions and assume responsibility for change. “
It’s recommended visitors be at least 12 years of age. I would invite you to check out this teaching opportunity in Los Angles. I want each of my children to visit one day. Please share any movies or books that also teach tolerance in the comments below. The love how reading can help us better understand others as we read their experiences. Since this subject is so important keep having these conversations with your children.