Healing Hate: A checklist for Allies

 Graffiti found on the BLine trail in Bloomington, IN  Photo:  Ijah McCulley

Graffiti found on the BLine trail in Bloomington, IN  Photo:  Ijah McCulley

“In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.”  -Barack Obama

There are so many things I want to tell you today— that we will make it, that the hate which takes 5 minutes to commit will not drown out the love which takes so much longer to rebuild, and that despite these heinous acts, I still believe that love will win in the end.  

When I found out about the hate crime at our Habitat neighborhood, my breath caught, my heart sank, and I frankly felt defeated.  Scared.  Terrified for where our country was headed.  I sat with a friend, I went out to see if I could help, I walked the property, bought some paint, and covered the hate.  With the love and anger welling up in equal amounts within me, I knew as soon as I talked to Ijah, the incredibly resilient Habitat homeowner who found the graffiti, that we had to wrap our love and pledge for security back around these families in their day of fear.  With a single call, our Habitat team launched into action.  From our staff getting busy on social media and finding candles, to volunteers a thousand miles away helping to draft plans, to the homeowner who was responding to media requests; we did what community does— ban together.  We did what needed to be done— create a container for healing and a path to fulfilling it. 

 Graffiti found on Bloomington, IN's Bline Trail Photo:  Ijah McCulley

Graffiti found on Bloomington, IN's Bline Trail Photo:  Ijah McCulley

I was broken-hearted for our homeowners yesterday— they were so scared, so intimidated.  Brokenhearted doesn’t get you anywhere though— and by the time the news trucks started arriving on the scene, Ijah had moved from terrified to emboldened.  She did an incredible job of representing us.  The miracle of the event for me was seeing those who our society has undervalued find their voices in the face of fear— it was our homeowners who stood up to what was happening.  They knocked on doors, called the police, and posted on social media.  In the face of all that was wrong with yesterday— the swastikas and KKK graffiti and the intimidation that resulted—what mattered most was our coming together at the end of it.  What mattered was wrapping ourselves around the frail and broken, and reminding them of their strength.  What mattered was standing with them when their voices trembled and reminding them that we were still here, and their will to overcome would be volleyed by a community of thousands who stand behind them.  Reminding them to find their voice, and reminding them that courage is doing hard things in the face of fear.  

Here’s what I learned:

  • When hate happens go to the people who were targeted immediately
  • Let them know you are with them, and stand with them as they find their voice
  • It they can’t find their voice, speak for them… their own voice will return as they overcome their fear
  • Gather those feeling vulnerable together and create a plan to stay safe
  • Create a venue for moving from vulnerability to power— our candlelight vigil turned into a “Take back the trail” march to bring light and love to a place which was made to feel unsafe.  
  • Invite others to join you.  Our candlelight flooded the trail with more than 100 people last night— who all showed up with just an hour’s notice.  
 A community meeting where our homeowners and staff were joined by Mayor John Hamilton and members of the Bloomington Police just before a candlelight vigil

A community meeting where our homeowners and staff were joined by Mayor John Hamilton and members of the Bloomington Police just before a candlelight vigil

When I found out about the election results, I prayed for a way to be an instrument of peace.  If you’d like to join me it’s very easy, all you have to do is keep your eyes and your heart open, and opportunities will present themselves.  The only thing left then, is showing up.  In the face of impossible odds, this is our path to change.