Hate in the U.S. Can be Healed in Childhood

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On January 6, I received a frantic call from my grandmother asking if I was aware of what was going on in Washington DC. At the time, I didn’t know what she was talking about, but it wasn’t long before I’d turn on the news and watched with disbelief as thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S Capitol building, and descended on the halls of Congress in an attempt to postpone the vote that would make President Joe Biden’s election, official.

I was shocked to see windows shattered, Trump flags waving, a man with his boots upon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, the looting of the offices of senators and congressmen, and supporters and police trampled by a mob that stormed the building. I asked myself, ‘why is there so much hate?’.

I got shivers down my spine thinking about what would happen if rioters were able to get a hold of lawmakers in the House of Chambers. By January 7, I knew there was a possibility that Trump supporters would continue to fight violently to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

Now, several weeks since the storming of the U.S capitol occurred, I have learned two things: the nation needs to stand united as opposed to divided, and be emotionally well rather than filled with hate. The images of that day showed me that our nation is filled with anger and fear, which means that we don’t know how to react to change appropriately, and are easily manipulated. Instead, we turn to violence, especially when we feel that we are no longer in control.

This lack of social and emotional wellness is rooted in our schools. According to research about bullying by Statista, a company specializing in market data, across the U.S. 54% of males and 23.6% of females reported that they were bullied on high school campuses during 2018-2019 school year. The bullying and hatred that begin in high school don’t end there. Social-emotional unstable behaviors can follow kids into adulthood, and I believe that these can reflect the instability of our nation.

During the Fall semester, our JSA (Junior State of America) chapter learned about how social-emotional challenges that students experience in youth, correlate directly to their adult experiences. We discovered that students take their childhood trauma to their adult life. Therefore, if we prevent trauma at an early age, we also prevent hate that assembles when they become adults. This leads me to believe that, perhaps, if we could have prevented an earlier trauma, Trump supporters wouldn’t have been filled with so much hatred and possibly would have handled the situation peacefully.

I continued to watch the news wondering why extreme force was not used upon these insurrectionists. Was it because the rioters were almost all White? “Odio que estos partidarios de Trump no sean tratados de la misma manera que los manifestantes de Black Lives Matter.” My grandmother, a person of color, was outraged at the fact that the rioters encountered a minimal police response, not the kind that Black Lives Matter protesters received. She mentioned that many of those pro-Trump rioters probably dispute the idea of White privilege, but the fact that they were allowed to overrun the police and invade the Senate and House of Chambers was evidence of that privilege.

In response to such hatred, our JSA Chapter took a strategy from JSA SoCal playbook and is launching a schoolwide Art for Advocacy initiative that aims to promote healing and civic engagement through creative methods. We named this project “Heal the Hate.” Through this initiative, students will be able to submit literature, film, visual art, photography, and music. All artwork will be focused on a specific form of hate and bring awareness on ways to “Heal the Hate.” All artwork will then be posted and promoted on our school’s website and during our school culture assemblies.

I believe that together we can create change, and we will make a great impact on the world by healing the hate; one community at a time.

Audrey Landeros is a sophomore and Director of Advocacy for Alliance Collins High JSA Chapter