The Ku Klux Klan recently received permission to hold a rally at a central square in Dayton, Ohio. This, in turn, mobilized counter forces who vowed to hold alternative rallies. Specifically, the Dayton Unit NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) announced they would hold a “Community Celebration” in a local park on the same day, promising “An Afternoon of Love, Unity, Peace & Diversity.”
However, the heat is already being turned up by other counter-groups angry at the city for giving the Klan a permit for the rally in the first place. They are urging confrontation with the responsible city officials.
Still others stated they would hold a counter protest the same day nearby in the downtown area.
Hate group rallies such as the one planned for Dayton and counter protests are making it difficult for policy and lawmakers. At the same time, they add tremendous tension to the air – one of the prime goals of hate groups.
Yet, it is our youth that bears the brunt of much of the collateral damage being done by these groups. Young people are often made to feel they must choose a side. If you’re not with one group, then you must be with the other. The middle ground in public discourse has all but disappeared, and those that try to stay in this space by keeping silent don’t have an opportunity to have their voice heard – leading to much frustration.
Outside of the U.S., the fine line between laws allowing free speech — which includes the right to protest – and laws disallowing hate speech seems to be moving daily. All too often, it appears that we are harsher on some groups than others, with decisions being swayed by the political climate as well as strong public personalities.
We need to come to terms with the fact that all groups — whether they be environmentalists, fascists, communists, white nationalists or Islamists — tend to bring the discourse to a higher level of emotion.
Whether it is due to a mob mentality or just bringing like-minded people together, these groups build on emotions that individual members are already experiencing and reinforce individuals’ need to identify with a community.
In addition, we give each gathering or organization a label empowering them that much more.
With that label comes legitimacy. So, if one group is given a public platform, an opposing group demands to have its voices heard just as loud — if not louder — to counter the ideology being promoted.
This battle of ideologies further fuels the fire of emotions, evoking a strong sense of polarization and often creating an environment ripe for physical violence.
Our children witness all of these happenings. As they grow up, outside influences become a much bigger part of their lives over family life and its values, heightening their emotions as well.
Without a place to safely express their fears, frustrations, pain and curiosity, it is no wonder that identifying with one of these extremist groups can give them an opportunity to release these emotions.
Moreover, beyond extremist groups, a sense of community can be extremely difficult to find in our ever-growing digital world.
Children must be educated that sometimes turning the other cheek and not being the loudest group of people on a specific day is also a valid response that can send a powerful message.
Adults and children alike can always choose another day to share their opinions when the air is quiet and their voices will be heard. This allows everyone to hear only one narrative rather than muddying the waters and upping the emotions by trying to shout over one over the other.