Across the nation: hate culture in America

Twelve-year-old takes her own life after being cyberbullied. Fifteen-year-old attempts suicide after being raped and bullied. Fourteen-year-old hangs herself after being bullied at school and online. These headlines are not new to us. Each day, approximately 86 Americans commit suicide, and 1,500 others attempt it. A very large majority of these suicides are a result of bullying, both in real life and online. Tragic events like these clearly show the prevalence of hate in our society today.

The history of America’s culture of hate could probably be traced back to the time of the formation of the Declaration of Independence. Settlers in the thirteen colonies hated not only the taxes that the British government imposed on them, but also the greed of the tax collectors sent to obtain this money. Fast forward to the rise of slavery in the South, the contempt that the white farmers and plantation owners felt towards the slaves they owned. The frequent lynchings of black men accused of crimes they did not commit distinctly displayed the hatred from this time period.

During the Great Depression, another wave of unrest hit the American people. Fatigued, hungry, and angry families that had played by the rules and lost looked desperately for someone to blame their misfortune on. Their scapegoat became Herbert Hoover, the President of the United States of America at the time. As employment rates dropped and soup lines grew, camps of homeless people who had been evicted from their houses popped up all over the country. These camps, bitterly named “Hoovervilles”, implied that the widespread poverty was all Hoover’s fault. A president that had led the states through a year of the prosperous roaring twenties would be remembered solely for the stock market crash and the events that followed.

The Pearl Harbor attacks on December 6, 1941 prompted a new hatred of the Japanese. The result of this hatred was the relocation of Japanese-Americans at specialized internment camps–a display of the fear and hatred of the Japanese people during World War II. While European countries were dealing with anti-semitism, the Americans discriminated against the Japanese, German, and Italian people.

The most notable event in America after the Second World War would be the attack of the Twin Towers on 9/11. The Al-Qaeda organized crime caused discrimination and prejudice towards members of Islam, especially Muslim extremists.

All through history, hate has impacted America’s decisions, both political and ideological. Recently, however, hate has changed its form. Instead of physical abuse, it has evolved into mental abuse–including cyberbullying, which has, as shown before, led to suicides and mental disorders. Other examples include the infamous Rutgers University incident, when an undergrad student jumped off a bridge after his roommate shared an embarrassing video of him on the Internet; and the more local Audrie Pott incident, where a fifteen year old Saratoga High School student hanged herself after being raped by three sixteen year old classmates. But can these modern day tragedies compare to the events of the past? Sylvia, a student pursuing a degree in sociology at the University of British Columbia, lends her opinion:

“I believe that bullying has become a growing problem over the last decade mainly due to the prevalence and wide availability of the internet to an increasingly younger generation. In previous years, bullying often stopped once a child or teen arrived home from school. Now, with the popularity of social media, it follows them wherever they go. Kids are now given smartphones as birthday gifts to stay safe, but with the click of a button they can easily access their Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram accounts, all of which can be platforms for online hatred. Instead of the 1,000 potential bullies teens are exposed to at school, the number increases to millions of anonymous bullies when social media is involved.

Therefore, when compared to the nineteenth century and the lynchings of black slaves, the discrimination and horrible mistreatment of human beings appears to have shifted from physical abuse to mental abuse. While physical abuse still occurs, it is much more common (and dare I say, socially acceptable) to call someone a “nigger” on Twitter anonymously than it is to beat him up after school for being black.”

Roy Lettieri, age 57, also agrees. He states, “[The issue of physical abuse], has gotten better, but we still have to do a better job in terms of providing counseling for high schoolers, no matter how ‘stable’ they are.”

It seems like regardless of time and situation, Americans constantly have the urge to target a group or ethnicity. When times are hard, people have no problem blaming someone for our misfortune, while forgetting and overlooking all the good things they may have done for our benefit in the past. We always need someone to hate–and the accessibility of the Internet has enabled some to actively voice their feelings, which can destroy the victim’s self-esteem and result in extreme, self-destructive behaviors like cutting or suicide. Sylvia says, “We have not necessarily improved as a society when it comes to bullying; we’ve just changed the methods in which we bully from physical to mental. In addition, we can now hide behind a veil of anonymity. And sadly, without that one-on-one interaction, bullying becomes easier and all too frequent.”

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