Teaching How to Combat Hate: Drawing Lessons from Stories of Survivors

“The mainstream news media often covers the perpetrators of hate crimes, but seldom do we hear the voices of survivors,” Arjun Sethi explained to the close to 20 educators gathered for a workshop on his book, American Hate: Survivors Speak Out (The New Press, 2018).

The workshop was held on the evening of May 9, 2019 at the historic Thurgood Marshall YMCA. Teachers arrived to a beautiful spread of humus, grape leaves, baklava, and more delicious food donated by the Virginia based Mediterranean Bakery and Café.

Alison Kysia, director of Teaching for Change’s Challenge Islamophobia Project, interviewed Sethi about the book and how he traveled the country in 2017 collecting testimonials from survivors of hate crimes who are Native American, African American, Arab, Latinx, South Asian, Southeast Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, undocumented, refugee, transgender, queer, and people with disabilities.

Kysia then led the group through the introductory portion of a lesson that teachers can use to bring Sethi’s book to the classroom. She began by showing a short clip from mainstream news coverage of one of the hate crimes – asking whose voices they heard and whose were left out. Kysia then invited participants to read the chapter in Sethi’s book with testimonials from the two women whose voices were missing from the news clip. Participants were able to see the power and importance of lifting up the voices of the survivors of the hate crime. Kysia modeled other parts of the lesson, including small group dialogues about selected quotes in their testimonial.

The session ended with a discussion of challenges and opportunities to bring this information to the classroom. Everyone committed to finding ways to share the book and lesson.

Here are some of the reflections from the evaluation:

Overall a very insightful group of participants. I really appreciated Arjun and what he’s done. Stories told in their own voices are powerful and inspiring.

A great resource to use with kids. Just wonderful food for thought.

I appreciated having a chance to think through how to use the book and hear others’ ideas.

This is the first time that I have been able to participate in a discussion about this with professionals and from an academic perspective, especially with the real experiences of the brave people in the book.

Great to hear from Arjun. Loved receiving the book! Thank you.

I learned that if we want a sustained conversation about hate, we have to start with conversations about race, racism, and privilege.

Excellent food. I appreciated the chance to talk with others, share, and brainstorm.

I’ve spent my life figuring out how to include this in many ways and this is a great tool. Thank you for this.

Looking forward to using Chapter 9 of American Hate in my religions of the world class.

Nicely done, great food, wonderful venue.



American Hate: Survivors Speak Out Author Talk and Workshop