Increased diversity and denouncing hate speech are the most effective ways to educate those with intolerant and bigoted perspectives, according to three panelists on the “Educate” panel during the OWN IT Summit on Saturday.
Huffington Post Executive Women’s Editor Emma Gray moderated the panel, which included Council on American-Islamic Relations liaison Dr. Zainab Chaudry, National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign Sarah McBride and the third U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.
The panelists shared their personal stories about their own education as well as shed light on the role of education within society.
McBride, who became the first openly transgender person to address a majority party convention when she spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in July, said minorities often feel ignored in conversations surrounding mainstream issues.
“Whether you’re Muslim, whether you’re trans, whether you’re gay, whether you’re an immigrant, you often feel lost in conversation, and one of the most common threads that exists across the country, whether you voted for Hilary Clinton or you voted for Donald Trump, is this notion or this feeling of being unseen,” McBride said.
According to McBride, simply listening to all sides of an argument could help to combat current social tensions.
“One of the most powerful political statements that people can make right now is to listen and to make clear that you see people and their pain; you see people and their plight,” McBride said.
Chaudry said her upbringing as an immigrant from Pakistan has influenced her activism, which emphasizes education.
“From an early age being a daughter of immigrants, education was so deeply enriched on my brothers and myself,” Chaudry said. “My parents migrated from Pakistan, and one of the reasons why they migrated to the United States is because they wanted to provide their children with better opportunities of education.”
McBride said the atmosphere of an educative environment is what urged her to explore her own identity.
“When I was in college I came out as trans, and it was through my experience in school, in college, through my experience in being in an educational environment that I was able to have the space to self-reflect,” McBride said. “I think that it is incredibly important to make sure you use education as an opportunity to figure out yourself, to figure out who you are before you go out in the world because there is no better time then to do that in college.”
Chaudry said diversity of thought is crucial to educate the whole person.
“A lot of time we tend to gravitate towards people who are familiar, to what we are comfortable with, but we learn the most from people who are different than us,” Chaudry said. “It is really eye-opening to see that we cheat ourselves out of so much diversity and so much enrichment that we can get from exposing ourselves to lots of people through listening to their own personal narratives.”
Smith said that including as many diverse voices as possible helps organizations yield better results in a professional environment.
“If you have lots of people from different generations working together, you can do extraordinary things together,” Smith said. “The more diverse a team is, the better its results. It’s not just about social inclusion, it’s about prosperity.”
McBride highlighted youth voices as significant, cautioning the youth not to keep silent.
“The common identity that often times keeps us quiet is our voices as young people,” McBride said. “The fact of the matter is that we will be the ones to write the history books of tomorrow, and we will be the ones who decide who was right and who was wrong in this moment, and a lot of officials, business leaders and adults, they know that. Make sure that you understand the gravity of your voice, the gravity of your perspective, because it is a powerful tool.”
According to Chaudry, self-awareness is key to preventing the desensitization to hate speech.
“We must be conscientiously aware of not normalizing hatred, not normalizing bigotry, especially living in a society and political climate where we have become so accustomed to hearing so much bigoted rhetoric that it desensitizes us to some degree,” Chaudry said.
McBride said individuals have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with marginalized communities to alleviate intolerance.
“We need to make sure we are not shirking our responsibility of standing in solidarity,” McBride said. “I encourage you when you see hate speech, step up, speak out and react. You want to educate people as to why they need to reevaluate what they are saying.”
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.