“How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” — Daryl Davis

With the recent change in the political climate has come a slight volume uptick from racists as well as antisemitic, homophobic, sexist, and Islamophobic individuals. I have to say that I genuinely feel sorry for them. Most of these people are just like the rest of us — they’ve seen a few difficult moments, they’ve felt let down by society, and they yearn to be a part of community of people who will accept them.

Playing The Victim
An easy path most of them take is victimization — to own the role of the victim. This path leads most to isolate the source of their problems on just a handful of alleged offenders. Usually, these entities aren’t entities at all, but rather a race, a nationality, an orientation, or a religious belief system. It’s much easier to paint the pain away with a large brush than with an fine-bristled brush.

Generalization: The Alt Right Delete
One of the weapons a bigot keeps at the ready is generalization. Just like cleaning out to make room on one’s computer is made easier if the items are contained in files, so too do most bigots use race, ethnicity, nationality, orientation, and religion as social files in order to generalize and delete entire demographics from their lives. But what happens when an item can be categorized in multiple files? What if a file destined for your Trash bin contains a handful of items you like? On a computer, what is a file anyways and who is making them?

Changing The Script
When most bigoted individuals are questioned as to why they detest a specific demographic, the generalizations will ooze out like a generic hate-filled mantra. The problem here is that most of these statements are not based on personal experiences — instead, they are sales pitches for targeted hatred — a product which the salesmen have never before tested for themselves. So, how does one rewrite their sales script? Simply get the salesmen to review the product.

Disarming With Commonalities
Most of us would like to simply ignore bigots in hopes that they will cease once they lose an audience — however, cultural isolation acts more as a pressure cooker than anything. The solution? Relieve the pressure with conversation. Still, one of the best ways to disarm a bigot in conversation is not by discussing the bigotry, but rather finding the uncommon commonalities. If a bigoted individual is asked about their family, their children, their job, their goals, or their hobbies, while it seems harmless, such questions are as disarming as Krav Maga. As more details are revealed in the conversation (and they will be — most people love talking about their own passions), this will create a space in the conversation for the other person to pepper in details about their own life and passions. Suddenly, someone who was a foe has a lot more in common than originally thought. Everyone loves their kids and wants them to be successful. Most people love their mothers. Everyone wants to be successful in their careers. We too much in common for this not to be the focus of conversation.

Disarming a bigot is not about directly discussing bigotry, but by editing a bigot’s narrative about human beings outside of their own social file folder. Like trying a new style of food, it’s easy to be apprehensive and negative towards what you do not understand. Once the preconceived notions are eliminated and one can be seen as a fellow human being with doubts, fears, passions and concerns, the sales pitch crumbles. Changing the narrative comes from bigoted individuals seeing the positive, experiencing the commonalities, and being honest with themselves — that as human beings, we have much more in common and we’re one large extended family on this place we call Earth.

Feel free to continue the conversation with me on Twitter.