History is not hate speech

As the Guardian reports,
Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Berlin after German MPs approved a motion describing the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a century ago as genocide – a decision that the Turkish president said would “seriously affect” relations between the two countries. 
Those whose families were traumatized by Turkey's actions are grateful for the acknowledgment of their suffering. Turkey's offense over this acknowledgment is so notorious there are even several wiki articles about it. Here is one.

Armenian embassy members hold posters reading ‘Recognition now – thank you’ during the meeting in Berlin. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

It's not like Germany doesn't know anything about committing and apologizing for genocide.

Atrocities are not unknown in the United States either. I have 87 posts here on the treatment of native Americans by the white government. The ongoing treatment of African Americans is no longer as bad as slavery but the current penal system is an ongoing human rights crime against the AA community. Please read Bryan Stevenson's book, Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption or look at the success stories of the Innocence Project. Telling these stories indicts those who committed the wrongs. But hiding the stories out of some twisted version of Christian charity is to perpetuate the crime by denying the just expression of the oppressed.

However, this week is also the anniversary of the Tulsa race riot when white Oklahomans attacked a highly successful and thriving black community in Tulsa and burned it to the ground in 1921.
The younger Franklin says Tulsa has been in denial over the fact that people were cruel enough to bomb the black community from the air, in private planes, and that black people were machine-gunned down in the streets. The issue was economics. Franklin explains that Native Americans and African-Americans became wealthy thanks to the discovery of oil in the early 1900s on what had previously been seen as worthless land. 
This shameful history was often ignored in Tulsa's american history classes. In 2012 the Oklahoma Senate passed a law to ensure it was taught. As one of the sponsoring Senators said, "It teaches us about how far hatred can go." Author, attorney and historian Hannibal B. Johnson unpacks this brief statement in the opening to his essay, Curriculum counts.
We need to teach and learn about the Riot. We need to know what happened and why. We need to hold people accountable; assign moral responsibility for the gross depredations and injustices perpetrated on Tulsa soil. If, and only if, we teach and learn about the Riot will we begin the process of reconciliation in earnest, recapture a lost sense of shared humanity, and create for posterity a community more open, inclusive and loving than the one in which we live today. We must incorporate this potent, painful, poignant legacy into the classroom in deliberate, systematic ways.

When we sanitize our past, we stifle our ability to analyze it intensively and critically
See a photo of a page from his book on Twitter.




Just this year is the local paper celebrating the teaching of this taboo subject in Tulsa's schools. But the subject is touchy and embarrassing, as it should be. As the first commenter on this article says, "Enough about the race riot. Start back reporting the current news."

History can and should make us uncomfortable when it reveals how people have treated people. But the causing of discomfort is not hate speech, it's an opportunity to heal, reconcile and grow. Those are not the goals of hate speech, which seeks to demean, divide, and diminish. For example a KKK meeting in Tulsa can talk about the Tulsa race riot in celebration, same history, different intent. Books and verse, whether historical or fictional, about this riot recalling the terror and the damage, retelling the stories and the losses, to generate sympathy for the victims by humanizing them is not hate speech. It's history with an intent to warn us about the wickedness that lurks in all of us.

Yesterday, I shared a poem on Facebook by the poet, Emily Joy. She also has a theology degree from the conservative Chicago Bible college, Moody. However, the poem I shared is critical of the conservative mantra, Love the Sinner and Hate the sin, in particular towards the LGBTQ community. I was told by an old friend that this poem was hateful and as bad as the hate speech she was critiquing. Yet she is telling true anecdotes of many interactions queer people have with conservative christians and parents. She is sharing the pain so that christians might realize the pain they are causing.


Parents of gay children who do the things Emily Joy writes about sometimes have deep regrets. These two Christian parents learned from their son he was gay and told him all the things Emily refers too. They loved him but gave him unloving doctrine in response. He died of an overdose a few years later. They want parents to know that the response to a child who comes out is to love them. Not love them the sinner, but love them "Just because he breathes." Both Emily Joy and these parents are sharing their pain and the pain of others. They want the unnecessary infliction of pain because of doctrine to stop. That is not hate speech. "When you do this it hurts" is important communication, not hate speech. It is not a violation of the golden rule of Jesus. In fact it is the fulfillment of it.

Jesus loves sinners. Jesus loves Turks and Armenians, Germans and Jews, whites and blacks and amerindians, straights and gays, pharisees and sinners. But he does have a problem with bullies and seeks to defend the bullied and brutalized. Using words to defend the bullied and marginalized is not hate speech. It's an act of love.

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