Recently I was working with a group of pedagogues in Ukraine and caught myself on idea that something is going wrong when a participant said “I recommend you to read “Mein Kampf” before saying that Jews are normal people.”
I want let you know that adults in Ukraine were raised on strict denial of nazi and fascists’ symbols and contradiction to any superiority of their leaders. The society reacts with a special pain to WWII issues, because almost each of the citizens lost their family members in the war.
And now at the seminar about NHSM and its instruments of combating hate speech in youth work, the person who works with children and youth day by day justifies nazi ideology and shares xenophobic hate speech.
It was extremely hard to work with this person. On the one hand I could not stand his hatred, on the other – I realized that once I show my objection he will keep silence staying with the same thoughts today and later with youth. And plus I was not ready to spoil the atmosphere in the group and let him wrap up a seminar at the beginning.
So what to do with “difficult” participants?
Try not to let them spoil your mood and turn you on. I order to live through this dialog you need to stay calm and trustful in the eyes of the others. Do your best to keep confidence and speak with a polite smile.
People who translate hate speech all around usually have no doubts in the truth of their point. You need to damage the wall of their convenience by a simple question or well-known contradicting fact.
“I would never stay gay students in my group. Good for me that I didn’t have them during 15 years of my working experience”.
“Why do you think that there were no gays among your students?”
“I would know it for sure, I have a strong disgust towards them, I would feel. And plus I work with teenagers, they were not spoilt yet.”
“Don’t you know that sexual orientation is a natural characteristic that is formed before child birth. According to statistics 3 to 5 among 100 children born are homosexual. I believe that you had more than 100 students in 15 years.”
In case the person just caught you with their comment, you may ask open or clarifying question (again with polite smile). Why do you think so? What makes you feel/think/act this way? Have you seen the provement of your words in real life? How many people of this group you personally met/have friends with?
Let the group react
Don’t accept everything only by yourself. Ask people around if they share the same point of view as the speaker or if there is something to contradict. People might follow your conversation but due to society rules and limits stay silent in front of the others. Though when you ask their opinion you are letting them know that their thoughts are important, giving some courage to stand against hate speech right here and right now.
That way you will also examine if this “special” person is the only one or has supporters in the group.
Say your point of view
In case you tried everything and nothing works. Try to generalize positive portrait of the person from the same sphere you are working with. Say something undoubted and approved by society. Something that should be in the society/world/school/group of young people they are working with.
Instead: “I think such people as you should be banned to work with youth”
Say: “I wish all the teachers could share tolerance to any minorities in front of their students” or “I hope everyone realize that peaceful society needs tolerant and intelligent teachers”.
It might seem that all of this is manipulation and not honest tricks. But it is not like that. Say truth, always say truth, but try to skip the sharp words in order to let others to hear you and learn by your behavior. Think that at moment of debate the more important is the way you standing for your ideas and values. Screaming and fighting are not the characteristics of tolerant person.
React at any hate speech you see/hear/feel, otherwise people might thought that you tolerate it. Remember that each of us has a power to influence the surrounding. Be the change!