Putting hate in its place

It was getting late in the evening and I was getting ready to leave the newspaper to head home. I packed up my bag and put on my coat when the phone rang. I considered letting the phone ring, but knew it might be my wife, so I picked it up and answered with breezy informality. As soon as I heard the voice on the other end, though, I quickly took on a more formal air.

It wasn’t my wife. Instead, the caller claimed to be the leader of a local hate group. I had written about some vandalism and graffiti at a high school and how the act had raised racial and ethnic tensions.

Image by Brett Sayles via Pexels.

An unhappy reader

I cupped my hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and waved my arms up in the air to get the attention of one of my editors. We got lots of feedback from readers to our stories, but usually not quite like this. The man on the phone told me that he wasn’t happy with the newspaper’s coverage and that I had failed to show how things really were, citing several racist stereotypes. He said he was calling to “invite” me to try again. I told him that we were planning another story on the challenges facing the community, but I wouldn’t be spewing any hate-filled messages in my story. 

He argued a few minutes more with me, calling me a few racist names. I told him that I would be willing to speak to him at the newspaper with my editor, but I would need his name since we didn’t believe in unnamed sources. As soon as I said that I heard a click on the other end of the line. Of course, the man hung up on me. 

Image by Brett Sayles via Pexels.

An uneasy ride home

I remember feeling uneasy. His threats were broad in nature and he sounded confused, maybe he had been drinking, but at the same time I didn’t know what to expect. When I finally packed up my bag and prepared to leave for the night, I was grateful to walk out of the building to my car with another reporter. When I got home, I went straight to the bedroom to check up on my wife who was sleeping peacefully for the night. 

I never heard from the man again, but I’ve never forgotten him and how hate can take over a person. I don’t claim to know the experience that minorities face in this country, but I know no one should ever face the hatred that the man wanted to throw at them. 

69 thoughts on “Putting hate in its place

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    1. Thank you! It wasn’t all that bad for me. A little worrisome in the moment because the guy obviously was a bully and who knows what he could or would do. Once I knew my family and I was okay, I always felt bad for the people his hate was directed at. A sad story but one I felt I had to write! Thanks for reading!

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  1. Brian I wanted to take a little time to think about how to respond. You’ve raised such important issues in your post. I agree, racism, discrimination of any kind and the hate crimes they can produce should never be tolerated. And no-one should be subjected to abuse or threats because of their jobs. It sounds like you handled the situation well despite being thrown and probably feeling stressed. Sounds like the hater knew he was wrong or he’d have been proud to associate his name with his opinions … to own his opinions.

    Of you don’t mind, I’d like to write a follow up post about hate crime and an experience a few years ago

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    1. Looking forward to see what you write Brenda! The story just always stayed in my memory because of the two images: getting the call and then getting home and seeing my wife. The images of hate and love. And thinking about what others we’re facing on a daily basis. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I’m so sorry for your experience, Brian, and that it’s on your mind if the incident occurred some time ago. Nasty stuff sticks with us. I don’t know if this will resonate for you as much as it does for me but this Audre Lord quote is one of my favorites: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” 💗 Ever hopeful am I.

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  3. I’m so glad you wrote this, Brian. As you say, those of us luck enough not to have hate spewed at them may recoil when reading about all too frequent occurrences, but you’ve helped remind us of the visceral reaction of the target when it’s actually directed at them. Very sadly, it’s a lot easier for some of us to believe that love can conquer hate than others.

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    1. Thanks for saying this Jane. I wrote this piece a few weeks ago and kept putting off posting. I just couldn’t find the right day to post. But I guess everyday is right to speak on what is right. And you’re so right, much easier for me to say love conquers all vs someone living through hatred. Thanks so much for the add!!!!

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  4. I’ve seen racist hate in action. I’ve also experienced forms of sexism and hate speech based on being female with a viewpoint. While I would really like to say that people change, their viewpoints change, they find a way around their hate and vitriol sadly Brian for some (many) it is who they are and who they remain. You handled your situation very well and I’m specifically glad it never went further.

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  5. A popular adage I heard often while growing up was that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. I believe we have done many wrongs to other humans due to racism in one or more of many of its forms, but to lash back in an angry and hurtful way is not a solution, because two wrongs will not make it right. I would have had great admiration for someone who was so determined in his/her beliefs to agree to meet with you and discuss it in person. Oft times, the only way we can change a way of thinking is one person at a time…

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    1. The man was definitely looking to spread his hate speech. I was a horrible person in his eyes because I wasn’t spreading hate or the racial stereotypes that he was spouting. I wasn’t sure, but felt pretty confident that he wasn’t going to give me his name or to discuss in person. He was more interested in spreading lies and hate than solving community problems. Yes, my hope is that his heart changed. I’m praying that anyway.

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      1. Brian, if nothing else, you showed him that you didn’t need to lower yourself to speak in hate in return and still made your point. Whether he remembers the lesson is doubtful, but you put it out there so you’ve done your part.

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  6. Oh wow, Brian. That is intense. I am glad you stood your ground but it’s also very sad that this kind of hatred exists and that the reader was so compelled as to vocalize that to you. Stand and stay strong!

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  7. Your sense of right won. People ask what can I do against racists? One thing we can all do is refuse to be bullied by their aggressive behavior and allow them to win. They can’t accomplish their goals by citing the facts, their only option is to try to intimidate us into submission.

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  8. Brian, sorry you had that experience. I think due to a number of events in recent years those who subscribe to hate over love have felt even more empowered…like the individual you encountered.. However, I continue to believe the power of love will win the day. That’s the path I have chosen to walk, and I know I am not alone.

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  9. That would make me feel very uneasy, too, Brian. What the heck is wrong with people. I remember someone berating (a perfect Aryan like me) for learning Spanish to help ‘those people’. My people are Mexican/European and my maiden name was Ortega so I gave him a sharp rebuke.

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    1. People are crazy. Just no way around it. I still think there are good people in the world, but some lost souls too. And yes, it was a little scary. This would a good number of years ago, but I really didn’t know what to expect. Glad that in the end everything was fine, but I certainly was worried for a bit.

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  10. Oh my goodness Brian, people are freaking crazy! I am not surprised, just disgusted. I hate that you dealt with that, but I can truly understand such insanity. Oh my friend, it seems like some folks eat, breathe and sleep hate. What a wasted life! 😡

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      1. Oh yes my dear Brian, fortunately there are more good people than these dooshbags who try to make our lives as miserable as theirs. Thank goodness for good people like you my friend. 🤗💖🥰

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  11. Oh boy Brian—what a scary moment! So glad you walked away safe. From what I hear about what’s going on astrologically these days, apparently, we can all look forward to some wonky behavior—our own included! It’s good to remember that love is always the answer (and maybe a little faith in knowing that we are all, always safe and protected—or so we hope). Guess that’s where the faith comes in! 🙏

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    1. This happened a good number of years ago, but yes, it was scary. Definitely made me think a lot about folks and their willingness to hurt others. And I agree with you, I think hate is on the rise. I’m never sure if it’s the internet culture, meaning everyone can be a tough guy when they have anonymity, but it still feels like we hear about a lot more issues nowadays. So very sad.

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      1. I do agree a lot of it is the internet and the ability to be anonymous. Years ago when I was on my kids’ swim team board, I’d get nasty, lengthy emails from unhappy parents. Even though they weren’t anonymous, they would vent things via email that they’d never say face to face.

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      2. That is crazy! Parents can be so silly. If you have enough time to criticize and be an “ass” via email, than you can put in the countless hours that it takes volunteering and serving as a coach, or fundraiser or sitting on athletic team committees and boards. Of course, no one wants to do that. They just want to criticize decisions that have been made for everyone’s benefit. Sad!

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    1. It was a good number of years ago. It definitely caught me by surprise. I lived a good distance away from the paper, but I remember my head being on a swivel the whole way home, expecting that anything might happen. Fortunately, that was the end of it, but I know other reporters got other calls similar to that one. Just Crazy.

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  12. And you never will forget it. When you speak to someone that’s filled with hate you can hear their voices forever and will always remember the look in their eyes. I knew he was going to hang up.

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    1. Yes, you’re so right. I’ll never forget the venom and pure hatred. But I also will always remember the little old lady who worked the lunch stand where we used to go for coffee. She barely knew me, but said she proud of me for the way I covered the story. 🙂

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  13. I am afraid that hate is always going to be a part of our political reality because hate and prejudice have been in the dna of mankind since the beginning of time and there is no way that love for our fellow human beings can ever be legislated.

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    1. What an ordeal that I am so sorry you had to take. Thank God nothing happened to anyone… staff or family. Hate has been unleashed and justice has not been done and now hate is spinning out of control. I fear for the future.

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      1. That was a good number of years ago, but it’s still sad that people think and act like that. I keep coming back to a simple idea: Yes, there are crazy, hateful people other there, but there’s still a lot of good too. You just have to look for it. I have a blog coming at some point on this topic. I’ve been seeing some depressing news lately and I get down, but when you look, you can see good people out there too. Still lots of hope.

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    1. I do more corporate communications writing now than news reporting, but it definitely taught me some strong skills. Some of my former copy editors would probably disavow ever working with me, though, after seeing some of my grammar mistakes on my blog. Ha, ha. Hope all is well.

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  14. i have never noticed grammatical errors. Just a seamless , coercive style that draws you in right away. All is well so far. My husband just had major surgery for two hernias. So I am laying low in the blog world.

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