Micro-kindness is Antidote to Hate

A neo-Nazi group of white nationalists rallied at the Reagan Building in DC, minutes away from the White House and US Capitol, and just steps away from the Holocaust museum. A cursory perusal of social media shows racist, anti-semitic, or anti-immigrant posts, comments, and full threads. In just 10 days, more than 850 incidents of hateful acts were reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Hate speech, racism, xenophobia, and anti-semitism are unquestionably on the rise in the US. What’s perhaps most alarming is that many of us have lived under the mistaken impression that these hateful thoughts, words, and actions were either a thing of the past or a thing that happens elsewhere in the world. What’s become painfully clear is that it was always here, lurking just beneath the surface, ready to rear its head when it became acceptable. And acceptance is on the rise.

It’s a small minority of Americans who commit and condone these words and deeds. But what should the rest of us, the true moral majority, do to stem the tide?

A friend on Facebook asked a simple question of his connections — beyond posting news and opinion on social networks, what are you actually doing to make things better?

The answer in part, I believe, is quite simple.

It’s this: Encourage kindness.

If each one of us were just 10% more kind — to everyone from family members to complete strangers — hateful words and acts will be recognized for what they are — socially unacceptable.

For most of us, we’re not likely to come face to face with bigoted speech or actions. If we do, I hope that we’ll call it out for what it is, and help end it right there. But in the majority of our daily interactions, our responsibility is more nuanced. Our duty is this: strive to set a higher standard for how people relate to one another.

Here’s just a few things worth trying:

  • Look a stranger in the eye and greet them warmly
  • Pick up some trash in your neighborhood
  • Think before you respond harshly at work
  • Let someone go ahead of you in traffic
  • Give someone a completely unsolicited compliment.

You get the idea — small acts that require little effort beyond the intent to be kind.