This is Emma Hernandez’s essay for the Spokane Community Observance of the Holocaust 2018 Art and Essay Contests.
Over the years, people have used speech to verbally harm others. These are angry, hateful words that are used to belittle and demonize certain minorities or religions, sentences that are used to persuade humans to turn on each other. Phrases that are used to incite fear and violence toward the unknown. Paragraphs that are used to fuel anger and discrimination. Hate speech is used to categorize you, stereotype you, segregate you, criminalize you, dehumanize you and, ultimately, destroy you.
Through my research, I have found that hate speech is often defined as the act of expressing hatred towards a particular group. Specifically, groups of people that share attributes such as race, religion, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. However, I think that there is something more to the concept of hate speech, that goes beyond the previous definition. I believe that hate speech goes farther than simply expressing hatred. It is the act of inspiring hatred and encouraging violence.
Examples of hate speech date back to before the Holocaust when it was being used by the Nazis to bring down the Jewish people. Hate speech was used to demonize the Jewish people and turn others against them. It caused the German people of Christian faith to be fearful of their fellow citizens, simply because they did not share the same religious and ethnic background. As most people know, the outcome of what started out as hate speech during World War II ultimately led to a mass genocide, with 6 million Jews dead, not to mention thousands more on both sides of the war dead or injured.
Hate speech, such as that used during the Holocaust, is still heard today. Even our current President has been accused of using hate speech. Today in the United States, the sort of hate speech experienced by Jewish people is being used to express hatred towards homosexuals, Muslims, African Americans, immigrants, and women in addition to the continuing acts of anti-Semitism. Though the intended targets have differed over time and the violence may seem to affect people on a smaller scale, the purpose of hate speech has remained the same: to hurt others.
Hate speech can be very harmful. It is those who stand up to bullies who can help the most. I believe the solution is to stand up and start to educate everyone on the damage and possible violence that hate speech can cause. I have taken into consideration the possibility that people may not listen, but I believe that the hope for less hate-filled community is a well informed public. I have observed that throughout human history, hate speech is primarily backed by false facts, stereotypes, and missing information. Education is the key to reducing ignorance regarding negative stereotypes and discrimination. This could help all people to understand those who differ from them. I believe working to abolish the idea of fearing the unknown and misunderstanding of those who are different can greatly decrease the incidence of hate speech.
Emma Hernandez is an eighth-grader at Pride Prep in Spokane.
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