What we can do about the culture of hate | Sally Kohn


So people tell me I’m a nice person … to the point where it’s part
of my personal and professional identity that I’m so nice
and able to get along with anyone, even my most fierce opponents. It’s like my “thing,”
it’s what I’m known for. (Laughter) But what no one knows … is that I was a bully. Honestly, I didn’t think
about it much myself. I buried the memories for years, and even still, a lot of it’s really hazy. Denial, by the way, apparently
is also one of my things. (Laughter) But the more people started to praise me for being a liberal who could
get along with conservatives, and the more I wrote articles
about being nice and gave talks about being nice, the more I felt this hypocrisy
creeping up inside me. What if I was actually really mean? When I was 10 years old, there was a girl in my class
at school named Vicky. (Sigh) And I tormented her … mercilessly. I mean, everyone did. Even the teachers picked on her. It doesn’t make it any better, does it? Vicky was clearly a troubled kid. She would hit herself
and give herself bloody noses and she had hygiene problems — she had big hygiene problems. But instead of helping this girl, who was plainly suffering
from hardships in her life … we called her “Sticky Vicky.” I called her “Sticky Vicky.” My clearest memory
is standing in the empty hallway outside the fifth grade classrooms waiting for Vicky
to come out of the bathroom, and I have a clipboard and a pen
and a survey I’ve made up, asking about shampoo preferences, like I’m doing a study
for science class or something. And when Vicky comes out of the bathroom, I pounce on her and I ask her
what shampoo she uses. Now, to put this in perspective, I can’t remember the names of my teachers, I can’t remember the names
of any of the books I read that year, I pretty much can’t remember
anything from fifth grade, but I remember that Vicky told me
she used White Rain shampoo. Clear as yesterday, like it just happened. And as classes let out, I ran down the hall shouting
at all the other kids, “Sticky Vicky uses White Rain shampoo. Don’t use White Rain shampoo or you’ll smell like Sticky Vicky.” I forgot about this memory
for a long time. When I finally started remembering it, I immediately needed to know more. I reached out to friends
and eventually social media, and I did everything I could
to try to find Vicky. I needed to know that she was OK, and that I hadn’t ruined her life. (Sigh) But what I quickly realized was I wasn’t just trying to figure out
what happened to Vicky. I was trying to figure out
what happened to me. When I was 10 years old, I treated another human being
like some worthless other … like I was better than her, and she was garbage. What kind of a nice person does that? I mean, I know I was only a kid, but not all kids do that. Most kids don’t do that, right? So, what if I wasn’t nice after all? I was really just a hateful monster. Then I started to notice myself
having these mean impulses, thinking mean thoughts and wanting to say them. Admittedly, most of my mean thoughts
were about conservatives. (Laughter) But not just conservatives. I also caught myself thinking mean things
about mushy, centrist liberals and greedy Wall Street bankers and Islamophobes and slow drivers, because I really hate slow drivers. (Laughter) And as I’d catch myself
in these moments of hypocrisy, either I was just noticing them
or they were getting worse, especially in the last few years. And as I felt more hateful — rageful, really — I noticed the world around me
seemed to be getting more hateful, too. Like there was this steady
undercurrent of hate bubbling up all around us and increasingly overflowing. So the plus side, I guess, is that I realized that hate
was not just my problem, which is like, the most
selfish plus side ever — (Laughter) because now instead of just my own hate
and cruelty to try to figure out, I had a whole world of hate
I wanted to unravel and understand and fix. So I did what all overly intellectual
people do when they have a problem that they want to understand, and I wrote a book. (Laughter) I wrote a book about hate. Spoiler alert: I’m against it. (Laughter) Now at this point,
you might be thinking to yourself, “Why are y’all worried about hate? You didn’t hate Vicky. Bullying isn’t hate.” Isn’t it? Gordon Allport, the psychologist who pioneered
the study of hate in the early 1900s, developed what he called
a “scale of prejudice.” At one end are things like genocide
and other bias-motivated violence. But at the other end are things like believing
that your in-group is inherently superior to some out-group, or avoiding social interaction
with those others. Isn’t that all hate? I mean, it wasn’t an accident that I was a rich kid
picking on a poor kid, or that Vicky, it turns out,
would eventually end up being gay. Poor kids and gay kids
are more likely to be bullied, even by kids who also end up being gay. I know there was a lot going on
in my little 10-year-old mind. I’m not saying hate was the only
reason I picked on Vicky or even that I was consciously
hateful or anything, but the fact is, the people we discriminate against
in our public policies and in our culture are also the groups of people
most likely to be bullied in school. That is not just a coincidence. That’s hate. I am defining hate in a broad way because I think we have a big problem. And we need to solve all of it,
not just the most extremes. So for instance, we probably all agree
that marching down the street, chanting about you should take away
rights from some group of people because of their skin color
or their gender, we’d all agree that’s hate, right? OK. What if you believe
that group of people is inferior, but you don’t say it? Is that hate? Or what if you believe
that group of people is inferior but you aren’t aware
that you believe it — what’s known as implicit bias. Is that hate? I mean they all have
the same roots, don’t they? In the historic patterns
of racism and sexism that have shaped our history
and still infect our society today. Isn’t it all hate? I’m not saying they’re the same thing, just like I am not saying that being a bully
is as bad as being a Nazi, just like I’m not saying that being a Nazi
is the same thing as punching a Nazi … (Laughter) But hating a Nazi is still hate, right? What about hating someone
who isn’t as enlightened as you? See, what I learned is that we all are against hate and we all think hate is a problem. We think it’s their problem, not our problem. They’re hateful. I mean, if I think the people
who didn’t vote like me are stupid racist monsters who don’t
deserve to call themselves Americans, alright, fine, I’m not being nice, I get it. (Laughter) I’m not hateful, I’m just right, right? (Laughter) Wrong. We all hate. And I do not mean that
in some abstract, generic sense. I mean all of us … me and you. That sanctimonious pedestal of superiority
on which we all place ourselves, that they are hateful and we are not, is a manifestation
of the essential root of hate: that we are fundamentally good
and they are not, which is what needs to change. So in trying to understand and solve hate, I read every book
and every research study I could find, but I also went and talked
to some former Nazis and some former terrorists and some former genocidal killers, because I figured if they could
figure out how to escape hate, surely the rest of us could. Let me give you just one example
of the former terrorist I spent time with in the West Bank. When Bassam Aramin was 16 years old, he tried to blow up an Israeli
military convoy with a grenade. He failed, fortunately, but he was still sentenced
to seven years in prison. When he was in prison,
they showed a film about the Holocaust. Up until that point, Bassam had thought the Holocaust
was mostly a myth. He went to go watch the film because he thought he would enjoy
seeing Jews get killed. But when he saw what really happened,
he broke down crying. And eventually, after prison, Bassam went on to get
a master’s degree in Holocaust studies and he founded an organization
where former Palestinian combatants and Israeli combatants come together, work together, try to find common ground. By his own account,
Bassam used to hate Israelis, but through knowing Israelis
and learning their stories and working together for peace, he overcame his hate. Bassam says he still
doesn’t hate Israelis, even after the Israeli military — shot and killed his [10]-year-old
daughter, Abir, while she was walking to school. (Sigh) Bassam even forgave the soldier
who killed his daughter. That soldier, he taught me, was just a product
of the same hateful system as he was. If a former terrorist … if a terrorist can learn to stop hating and still not hate
when their child is killed, surely the rest of us can stop our habits of demeaning and dehumanizing each other. And I will tell you there are stories
like Bassam’s all over the world, plus study after study after study that says, no, we are neither designed
nor destined as human beings to hate, but rather taught to hate
by the world around us. I promise you, none of us pops out of the womb
hating black people or Republicans. There is nothing in our DNA
that makes us hate Muslims or Mexicans. For better or for worse, we are all a product
of the culture around us. And the good news is, we’re also the ones
who shape that culture, which means we can change it. The first step is starting to recognize
the hate inside ourselves. We need to catch ourselves and our hateful thoughts
in all their forms in all of us … and work to challenge
our ideas and assumptions. That doesn’t happen overnight, I am telling you right here, it is a lifelong journey,
but it’s one we all need to take. And then second: if we want to challenge
the hate in our societies, we need to promote policies
and institutions and practices that connect us as communities. Literally, like integrated
neighborhoods and schools. That by the way is the reason
to support integration. Not just because
it’s the right thing to do, but because integration
systematically combats hate. There are studies
that teenagers who participate in racially integrated classes
and activities reduce their racial bias. And when little kids go to racially
integrated kindergartens and elementary schools — they develop less bias to begin with. But the fact is in so many ways
and in so many places around our world, we are separated from each other. In the United States, for instance, three-quarters of white people
don’t have any non-white friends. So in addition to promoting
those proactive solutions, the other thing we need to do
is upend the hate in our institutions and our policies that perpetuate dehumanization
and difference and otherizing and hate, like systems of sexual harassment
and sexual assault in the workplace, or our deeply racially imbalanced and deeply racially biased
criminal “justice” system. We need to change that. Again, it will not happen overnight. It needs to happen. And then … when we connect together in these connection spaces, facilitated by connection systems, we need to change the way
we talk to each other and connect with one another and relate with generosity
and open-mindedness and kindness and compassion and not hate. And that’s it. That’s it. (Applause) I have solved it all, right? That’s it. That is pretty much — there’s a few details — but that’s pretty much all we have to do. It’s not that complicated, right? But it’s hard. The hate that we feel
towards certain groups of people because of who they are
or what they believe is so ingrained in our minds
and in our society that it can feel inevitable and impossible to change. Change is possible. Just look at the terrorist
who became a peace activist. Or look at the bully who learned
to apologize to her victim. The entire time I was traveling
around the Middle East and Rwanda and across the United States, hearing these unbelievable stories
of people in communities who had left entire histories
of hate behind, I was still looking for Vicky. It was so hard find her that I hired
a private investigator and he found her. I mean, he sort of found her. The truth is, it became clear
that the person I’m calling Vicky had gone to extraordinary lengths
to hide her identity. But anyway, a year after
I began my journey, I wrote Vicky an apology. And a few months later, she wrote back. (Sigh) I’m not going to lie, I wanted to be forgiven. I wasn’t. (Sigh) She offered me sort of
conditional forgiveness. What she wrote was … “Messages such as yours
cannot absolve you of your past actions. The only way to do that
is to improve the world, prevent others
from behaving in similar ways and foster compassion.” And Vicky’s right. Which is why I’m here. Thank you. (Applause)




Comments
  1. Is there any kind of movement we can subscribe to as like-minded members of an international community around this to contribute?

  2. Incredibly powerful speech, don't understand the many dislikes. There was a short time I judged a video's quality by looking at the dislikes but the subject interested me and the fact that I know the mass of the people are not always right. Glad I watched.

  3. One additional manifestation of hatred, Us vs Them, is the assumption that your group has a monopoly on truth and knowledge and that there is nothing you can learn from the other group. This is arrogance and can blind someone to one’s own group’s hypocrisies or facts/realities that don’t support your own group’s ideology/beliefs. This is arrogance and close-mindedness. I see this on the Left and the Right.

  4. Great talk, except one issue, not everyone shares the same ideals, which is why people segregate themselves. Why do you think we hate because we see the world differently? This sounded more like accept everyone to show you don't hate, which is how criminals sneak in. There's a moat around a castle for a reason, not everyone has YOUR best interest at heart, in fact, the majority of people only really cares about their interests. Which is what makes Jesus Christ so unique.

  5. Did any of the people commenting actually watch the video in its entirety? What in this video has made it worthy of so many dislikes?

  6. There are many beautiful things to fight for in this world, and also many things to hate. Without hate, love has no meaning.

  7. How far does integration go? I don’t want to go to Japan because they have blue eyes and speak French. I don’t want to go to Sweden because they look like Koreans and eat Italian food. The reason why the cultures and peoples of Japan, France, Sweden, and Italy are what they are is because of discrimination. They are tribal. They are exclusionary.

  8. **The Left (Atl-Left) has made "hate" pop culture and cool. "Space to destroy"… the post Obama mindset has made it ok to do and say anything to anyone in the name of your cause. I'm just sayin'.**

  9. this talk sucked, not because i disagree with what she said but because she just gave us a bunch of anecdote with no real research or data and the story wasn't even all that compelling…smh

  10. she seem to believe that feelings is the only thing that govern human behaviors and that if people are not like her, we just have to manipulate there feeling the "right way".

  11. I am tire of TED talk. It is nothing but leftist speaker in front of a leftist audience repeating the things they all already agree with to make them feel like en enlighten elite. It is basically a leftist cult. Like a church. No reflection happen here, even when they pretend to by just reformulating they're views in a different format.

  12. Watch the whole video and stop assuming what it's about. She's not someone who just says conservatives are racist. Watch the video.

  13. Islamophobe means, the ones, who fight and hate Islam, suffer from an irrational fear. They don't. Their concern can be rationalized very easily.

  14. WOW!!! I wish with all my heart this video could be played every single day as a public announcement on hate✨

  15. We need more brave people like Sally. Sally has turned her life around and is telling her story. It is so much more meaningful than the general platitudes against hate that we all throw around – yes, we do mean it; but it is not full of meaning.

  16. 1st amendment grants you that right as long as you are a US citizen dont try to regulate what i should say or think, hate must be confronted in order to solve problems, i am pro gun and people who are against guns might see that as hate, so where is the line drawn to me is when someone makes a threat of any kind

  17. For it to be a "Culture of hate", hate must become the sole objective, but it never is.
    It IS in our DNA to be suspicious of outer groups. It is one of our defense mechanisms that you'd want us to drop.
    You don't control hate. You have power to change your environment, educate yourself, find out why you feel disgust, repulsion and hate towards a person, group or an idea. It is through understanding of own self and outside ideas you get to evaluate your prejudice and come to peace with what you felt all those feelings towards.
    Here is how it goes. You feel threatened first, then you form hate towards the object of threat, then you form understanding of the object and threat itself, then you formulate a plan of action if that threat is to ever turn into an attack against you, then you study the reason the object threatens you and finally you drop hate because it no longer serves the purpose of protecting you. By this point you've protected yourself with knowledge, plan and action against the threat and hate no longer serves a defense mechanism that is no more than a knee jerk reaction to a threat. That's what hate is.
    You conflate so many issues into one and call them "hate" when it is not. You don't hate you child for not knowing simple math. You know factually that your child is inferior in math skills than you and you still don't hate them. Frustrated – yes.
    Do you want hate to be gone from society? No, you do not. It is a defense mechanism that some people have to use to cope with reality. If you were to blame someone for something bad that happened to you then it is your hate towards that person that will keep your understanding of the world from collapsing. If there is nobody to blame, then you have to reevaluate your world view at the time when you are most vulnerable from the bad thing itself. It is useful when done right.

    Not everything said is wrong tho. There are ways to spot the actual hate – as in strong negative feelings towards something – and evaluate the reason why it happens and what can be done to change it. If you experience it – you must find out why.

  18. There is one answer for hate – JESUS. And if people believe in Jesus and still hate, it means they should try harder to understand him better, including me.

  19. Wow, even when she self-examines she still comes up with things like "what if they aren't as enlightened as you". Can't get away from her own implicit bias even as she lectures us about it.

  20. First step to change is admitting fault. But clearly she’s past that step. This woman is WAYYY ahead of most people maturity wise. She learned from her behaviour; there is nothing hypocritical about that. She’s using her experience to help others. And she’s asking very important questions.

  21. let's just not hate. she emphasised that 1000x times. that's her whole point. if you want to argue that or change the narrative on that, you think we should hate. that's your opinion. what sally is saying is that it is a dangerous opinion. have an amazing day.

  22. What's up with this woman? Why does she keep stressing panting and sighing so loudly? For the drama? for the effect? Doesnt suit her appearance.

  23. It isn't hypocrisy to hate intolerance. I believe it's called the tolerance paradox- you don't tolerate intolerance. It's also kinda hard to have a productive discussion when all you get in response to your questions or comments is insults.

  24. Wrong title for this video, should be a self help video that will never actually happen because people are people. Nothing new or ground breaking here, she just wrote a book on a subject most people already know. This wont change or help anything is frankly just a waste of time.

  25. And here i was thinking she might have learned…. she is stil spewing the same bullshit she did two years ago… almost everything she is talking about right now is the same the talked about with Ben Shapiro…. and he obliterated each and every point, by showing here that she has zero proof for any of her claims… i have to watch the next to each other an make a list.

  26. Someone explain to me why there's so many comments stuck on politics?

    Just looked her up, she might be a political commentator, but the talk itself isn't political. The message is about learning to hate less, and it happens that politics is a great example of hate and the dividing into "us" and "them".

  27. So she discourages hate, but through jokes and examples implies that people naturally dislike Republicans? It's that…oh, I don't know…hateful?

  28. Thank you guys, I was not agree with her, then I read the comment section and understood that she might have a point !

  29. We are all born Vegan also. We were taught to exploit, harm, and oppress others… both humans and animals alike. Peace starts on your plate. Both big pharma and animal agriculture wants to keep you sick, because you're a commodity. There is nothing healthy about eating corpses, or murdering babies.

  30. I am extremely disappointed at the hateful comments. This says precisely how much hate there still is in our societies. I've yet to see any popular ted talk with >10% thumb downs. Her idea is liberal and I self-identify as a liberal too, but this alone can't justify the overwhelming attacks. I think people, especially these days, have a deep sense of insecurity. When some are made aware of their own prejudice, they become extremely uncomfortable and defensive, which leads to denial and attack on the person who revealed it. It is just animal instinct to protect oneself and the soft spots. But we as humans, should do better than that. Accept we are not perfect and embrace different opinions. Check out The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown. I think this comment might attract a lot of attack too if it ever surfaces to the top, but that's OK. I am not worried about being not cool.

  31. You called a Palestinian who targeted an Israeli military jeep a terrorist, why? Isn't that hypocrite and hateful? Why would you classify someone resisting a belligerent occupation as terrorist? This Palestinian you mentioned targeted a military target, not a civilian target, so he's not a terrorist. A terrorist is someone who targets civilians to achieve political ends, not who fight back the army invading his land,. Even according to international law this Palestinian you mentioned isn't a terrorist, so you are guilty of hate on another level that you fail to recognize.

  32. If you attempt to love everybody and don't assume that "they are against us" it may put you in a position of vulnerability in life. I know a guy from Moscow who visited New York City thinking that black people a fundamentally good (which is the case of course ), and he was approached by a gang demanding money near Central Park. This Russian guy stepped up forward tried to hug the gangster with the gun because he thought he was watching a movie or something like that and was shot in the face. He survived but paid a handsome price for his people loving nature. The questions is, what did he gain from his loving nature? Right, an artificial lower jaw for the American taxpayers.

  33. I dont like her at all she seems fake. And yes you ruined her life, not concieusly surely but some people never recover.

  34. I agree with the majority of what she says, but I sense underlying biases in her tone when she addresses the contrasts in cultures and groups. If I were alone with her I would love to ask and learn more about how she sees the world and how she manages her own views.

  35. GO Vicki ! Through Vicki's words you found the strength to help make a better world. Yes you were already on the path, Vicki gave you the extra umph to keep going & not give up, give in, let go. So again GO VICKI !

  36. You can stop assuming that there isnt anyone in "this fucking great big green earth that doesnt believe in individual rights" …. this Sally Kohn person said that… she is a naive idiot, please do not listen to her about anything, but especially about Islam… and everything else

  37. My experience is that the Republic of the United States of America is more racially integrated and less prejudiced than a good majority of other First World countries simply because we are the Melting Pot based on immigration. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."

  38. Wouldn't you hate me if I broke into your house and forced you to share it with me unwillingly?
    What then if I hurt your family? Won't you hate me if I did so?

    I don't hate jews I hate occupation. there's a big difference.

    You can't call yourself a "Human being" if you don't "Hate" evil.

  39. I always knew that ''good people'' talking against hate, condemning the hateful were also hating. And I never though that hating bad things is wrong. So, is she saying that I should stop hating Nazis or terrorists?

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