Due to the current political climate and what is happening across our nation, we think everyone should start learning self defense. Here we’re going to identify the statistics that make a strong case for a rise in hate speech, our rights of free speech, and how to defend yourself from hate.
The Rise of Hate
As reported by the Southern Poverty law center, the amount of reported hate crime has risen dramatically since the election of Donald Trump. It seems that the majority of hate crimes are focused on immigrants, followed by blacks, then Jews, LGBT, Muslims and even women in general. However, victims of hate crime also include Trump supporters (see the chart provided by Statistica below).
In addition, the Anti Defamation League has also reported an increase in Antisemitism incidents.
When Trump has been confronted with these issues, he has declined to address them directly – even saying they’re unfair questions to ask. This has caused his critics to exclaim that he is a bigot. By extensions, some claim anyone who supports him to also be a bigot.
However, most of those who voted for Trump did so because he promised to address their economic hardship, while the Democratic candidate did not. While I would argue that they may have misplaced their confidence, its undeniable that this was one of the core driving factors leading to his victory. However, many still get lumped into being racist.
Worst of all, Trump himself is exacerbating this divide; rather than acknowledging the concerns of his critics and bringing a discussion forward of all parties, he has resorted to calling the media “fake news” for voicing such criticism and going as far as to exclaim news as the enemy of the people.
It’s clear that country continues to be divided and emotionally charged. It appears both sides are becoming less and less interested in having an active dialogue. Protests are erupting across the country. Trump supporters continue to remain critical of opposition and/or criticism Trump recieves. Reconciliation doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. It may get worse before it gets better.
The 1st Ammendment
…hate is about silencing the opposition, not engaging in a conversation.
You are legally protected under the 1st Amendment to express and exercise your beliefs, no matter how controversial or unpopular they may be. The only stipulation is that it cannot promote violence, since that affects the freedom of another individual. This is to encourage the “marketplace” of ideas and to promote discussion of different views.
However, some people cannot handle this. Many are frustrated. Many are afraid. Frustration and fear breed hate. And hate often leads violence. And while it is of course illegal and immoral to attack someone else for a difference in opinion or belief, as emotions run high people think less logically and don’t consider the consequences of their actions.
After all, hate is about silencing the opposition, not engaging in a conversation. And some of the most effective methods of silencing opposition is intimidation, fear, and violence.
For this reason, you need to learn how to protect yourself if for nothing else to prevent you from being silenced.
Emotional Self Defense
When someone uses hate, they are attempting to take away your voice, your humanity, and your power through fear. If you can conquer that fear, you take back control for yourself.
First and foremost, remember you are a human being. No matter what anyone says to you or about you, no one can change that.
It’s not uncommon for people to attempt to dehumanize their opposition. It’s much easier to justify certain beliefs and actions if you’re doing it to something a little less than human. This is most obvious in times of war, where nicknames are given to the enemy (Krauts and Japs in WWII, Charlie in Vietnam, Skinnies in Somalia, etc.). However, this is also employed in hate speech.
While it can be very demoralizing to be equated with something less than human, remember that this is simply untrue. No matter your ethnicity, faith, political affiliation – or anything else for that matter – you are human and are entitled to the same rights as the person who is attempting to dehumanize you. Don’t settle for being treated as anything less than human. While you can’t control how others view you, you always can control how you view yourself.
Experiencing hate and being dehumanized is emotionally draining. It’s important to have a support group to lean on and help recharge your emotional batteries. This can be friends, family, therapy or any organization that will serve as a place of understanding where you can vent your feelings and take a break. This will help remind you of your humanity as well as give you time to rest and reboot.
These things will help you face and conquer fear, which is the ultimate goal of hate. By taking care of yourself emotionally, you empower yourself. When someone uses hate, they are attempting to take away your voice, your humanity, and your power through fear. If you can conquer that fear, you take back control for yourself.
This in itself will be a deterrent; predators pick what they feel are weak prey. If someone is going to express hatred, odds are they are going to do it to someone they perceive as weaker. Your emotional self defense will exude confidence, which reduces your odds of being attacked. Stand tall and proud and the less you will be victimized.
Physical Self Defense
I am a human being and I have every right to exist – and I will fight harder for it than you are willing to to take it away.
For most, the hate they experience will be verbal or written. Hate may take the form of rhetoric, signs, or even vandalism which requires emotional self defense. However, hate inevitably takes the form of violence.
The key is awareness: the sooner you can identify the threat the sooner you can begin to deal with it. The best thing when facing potential violence is to avoid it completely.
Get in the habit of looking for these things everywhere you go:
- Number and location of exits
- Possible bottlenecks (if confronted by a crowd)
- Existing or natural barriers
If you identify these things, you’ll naturally will develop an escape plan. It’s a relatively easy habit to develop. The same goes for people: some things to look for in a person are:
- Facial expressions
- Overall demeanor (clenching of fists, posture, etc.)
- Reaching for weapons
- Positioning relative to groups or cameras
- Additional members of their group
- Cues in their speech indicating violence
We have evolved to be able to read people to understand what they’re feeling – it’s instinctual. If something tells you that someone is a threat, listen to it, and try to avoid them.
If you begin to feel you are being threatened, position yourself close to a barrier and/or an exit. If there is a crowd unrelated to the threat, move closer to the crowd. The goal is simply to be in a position to escape as quickly as possible if violence erupts. To the best of your ability, you need to dictate your positioning rather than the attacker.
If you can’t avoid or mitigate a threat, and are physically attacked, then you need to unleash all your fury long enough to escape or end the threat. The only way to do that is to overwhelm your opponent with greater violence and injury than they are prepared to take.
Needless to say, this is unpleasant. You will get hurt. You will be hurting another person – maybe even taking their life if necessary. However, your priority is your life. Clench your teeth, prepare for the adrenaline and pain, and fight with everything you have.
There is a saying that one of the Grandmasters of our Art, Takamatsu Toshitsugu, said about fighting: “if your opponent cuts your skin, cut their flesh. If they cut your flesh, cut their bone. If they cut your bone – cut their life.” This is the attitude you need to have if things turn physical: I am a human being and I have every right to exist – and I will fight harder for it than you are willing to to take it away.
We are a Safe Space
I know there are some that are critical of the term “safe space”, but that is exactly what Todai has been – a sanctuary. It’s safe not because we all agree, but because we can disagree. We accept each other, even if we don’t necessarily agree with each other. We have students that come from every walk of life that train together: we have Christian, Muslims, Jews, Athiests. We have LGBT and straight. Democrat and Republican. Immigrant and non-immigrant. Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump. With all our differences, we are united in our support of our fellow human beings, as well as our belief that everyone has a right to protect themselves. We are a clan – a family – and to attack one of us is to attack all of us.