Street Art: Don’t Hate!

Don't Hate Austin

I found this colourful character I’m trying to love in Austin, Texas. 

Some people (or things) are easy to love. You’ll see many being celebrated in this week’s photo challenge: One Love. But to address the prompt directly, do we routinely see ‘universal love and respect expressed by all people for all people, regardless of race, creed or colour’?

We don’t feel prejudice. Others might: we don’t. That’s a comforting thought.

That’s why nothing changes and so many people face discrimination.

It reminds me of the lines from an old song, delivered with a classic, new wave snarl of indignation:

Something better change…
Yeah, change it, you!

The irony always made me smile, even as a youngster. Nothing will change unless we change it.

I can’t be blind to the misery caused by prejudice in all its forms. The Black Lives Matter debate in particular has changed me. I can’t dismiss the concerns. I can’t get any comfort from the phrase ‘it’s not about colour, it’s about culture’.

It’s not only about black/white, though this is the most insidious; it can be rich/poor, northern/southern, male/female, young/old, people who can use apostrophes/people who can’t (not a joke), people who support gun control/people who don’t…

You know I could go on and on – and given enough time, I’d touch on one of yours.

So when I saw the prompt, I knew if I was to respond I would have to say loud and clear:

Prejudice exists.

This is my problem: it’s about my attitudes, instincts and actions. It’s about the attitudes, instincts and actions of those who seek my permission to represent me.

These days, I confront my prejudices. I don’t look to reassure myself, I surf my instincts and see where they take me.

As I hinted, something about this image is unattractive to me: so much so that I hesitated to post it. The artist wanted to challenge me. He or she succeeded.

Street Art: Don't Hate!

It’s chastening. Ironic. I have negative feelings about the stranger I later learn is one of America’s much loved comedians; the one telling me not to hate. If I try to analyse what I don’t like, I’m struggling. It may just be instinct to recoil from his recoil. Or prejudice. This tension gives extra strength to the design; helps its message hit a vulnerable spot.

I like Austin. I like creative people and communities. I don’t demand that everyone conforms. How often do I say we should celebrate our differences? I firmly believe it, but don’t always achieve it.

Back to the One Love ideal – I’m clearly not in a position where I can claim to love everyone, though I respect those who do. How should I respond to ideas or individuals at the far end of the scale – those I see as being unambiguously harmful?

The people I most admire would say:

Be gentle. Take time to understand. Feel free to present an alternative view. Try not to generalise about people, no matter how tempting it is. Don’t ever believe you’ve got it all right when others have got it all wrong. And whatever you do, don’t hate.

7 thoughts on “Street Art: Don’t Hate!

  1. Bill Taylor says:

    I believe prejudice flows from our evolutionary heritage, specifically tribalism. It is a learned behavior and once learned not easily unlearned. What is preventable is the action one takes because of their prejudice – discrimination. If those prejudiced individuals would not speak or act on their feelings it would seem the problem would disappear within a generation or two.

    Like

    • susurrus says:

      Hi Bill! Thanks for commenting. That’s a big ‘if’ – if everyone was as fair-minded as you we’d be OK now, which is more to the point for people alive now. You’ve reminded me of a quote, originally about genes, but one that applies just as well to anything embedded in us/our culture:
      Let us understand what our own [instincts] are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Clare Flourish says:

    I interpret him as a gay man. So there. A gay man not at ease in his own skin, with “internalised homophobia”- just in case you don’t know the jargon, we LGBT grow up hearing how wrong we are, and just accept such opinions, even believing them. Self-acceptance can be so difficult with such a start. “Don’t hate” because he fears your hate, because it will raise echoes in him which will hurt him- which makes him intensely vulnerable to any dislike or disapproval.

    How brave, then, to be out!

    And, yeah, I have difficulty with misplaced apostrophe’s.

    Onywye. Hello. Delighted to meet you.

    Like

    • susurrus says:

      You too. Thanks for your help today. I really appreciate it.

      I’m grateful you addressed the picture so directly too. I hadn’t thought about the circular effect of prejudice in quite those terms before.

      Like

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