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    Monday, August 15, 2022

    What's the vaccine for hate?

    Charleston, 2015. Nine Black churchgoers are killed.

    Pittsburgh, 2018. Eleven Jewish worshippers are killed.

    El Paso, 2019. Twenty-three Latino shoppers are killed.

    Buffalo, 2022. Ten people are killed, eight of them Black.

    To these American atrocities, let us add two more that have served as models and inspirations from around the world:

    Oslo, Norway, 2011. Seventy-seven people, mostly young, killed in a bomb attack and mass shooting.

    Christchurch, New Zealand, 2019. Fifty-one Muslim worshippers killed.

    All these terrorist attacks were motivated by hatred and fear. Specifically, it is a fear kindled by something called “replacement theory": the idea that a shadowy global cabal — often associated with Jews — is systemically replacing white people with 'darker-skin' peoples. The theory capitalizes on fear of lost power and privileges that comes with increased racial diversity. It gives already distrustful and hateful people an identity for their animus.

    Youth also unites many shooters. The Oslo terrorist was 31 at the time, but is suspected to have conceived his plot a decade earlier. The Christchurch killer was 28. The Charleston and El Paso shooters were each 21, and the Buffalo shooter is 18 years old.

    It is often thought that hate takes a long time to curdle into murder. But these young killers suggest something else: acting on their hate is the only future they can imagine for themselves.

    N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul called for restrictions on the hate speech 'virus.' But as we’ve learned from the past two years, viruses can’t be regulated by law. Young men who want to hate will find reasons.

    We need vaccination that keeps those infected with hate from getting sick.

    It is clear that young men who lack secure social foundations are most likely to catch the virus. They find hate in their experiences, justifying racist ideas like “replacement theory.”

    A vaccine for this social privation won’t be a simple answer like gun control or censoring social media. It will be a society-wide commitment to supporting a culture of belonging rather than one of alienation. Every person and institution in America must administer the anti-hate vaccine to those they can and build a healthier, more peaceful world.

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