The Pyramid of Hate

Bullying in Locker RoomThere is so much unfathomable violence in our world, from the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Jews, to the Oklahoma bombing, to the 9-11 events, to the various shootings throughout our country this past year, to the violence unfolding in Mali, to the two young men in my classroom who went after each last week.

Every time another violent event happens, we ask one another, “How could something like this happen?  What are these people thinking?”  We want to immediately say they are mentally ill, and many of them are, in fact, mentally ill.  One out of five people has some sort of mental illness, but not all violent people are mentally ill.  Many of them are mentally unstable at the time of their violent acts, but this is not the same thing as being mentally ill.  Many people, through series of events in their lives, have slowly crept their way up what the Anti-Defamation League calls the Pyramid of Hate©.  TJ Leyden, to whom I will refer later in this post is an example of this.  Unfortunately, we may never know what most of these people were thinking, but in almost all cases, we can chart their courses up this Pyramid of Hate© as either participants or victims.

With the onslaught of bullying behavior, you may be asking yourself, “What is the Pyramid of Hate© and how is it different than bullying?”  The Pyramid of Hate© is a graphic chart of a pyramid that explains how simple biases and prejudices can escalate into pure hatred and, in extreme cases, can lead to genocide.  The five levels are:

5th Level: Genocide

The deliberate, systematic extermination of an entire people

4th Level: Violence against people or property

Threats, assaults, terrorism, murder, arson, desecration of scared property

3rd Level: Discrimination

Employment, housing, educational, harassment

2nd Level: Acts of Prejudice

Name calling, ridicule, social avoidance, social exclusion, telling belittling jokes

1st Level: Prejudiced Attitudes

Accepting stereotypes, not challenging belittling jokes, scapegoating

While I take every opportunity to teach about bullying, it is not the same thing as teaching about the Pyramid of Hate©.  Bullying has its own definition and is only one small part of the Pyramid of Hate©.  In my classroom, we spend several weeks on the concepts found in the Pyramid of Hate©.  I want to instill in my students the recognition of simple biases and prejudices and reinforce how important it is that we stop the progression of these biases and prejudices.

I see these biases and prejudices in our classrooms with children who think nothing of scapegoating, bullying, and accepting stereotypes.  I see it in the workplace with adults who exclude and ridicule colleagues. I see it on the streets as people make threats toward others. I hear it in daily conversations with people who tell belittling jokes.  I am ashamed to say, but feel I must be honest and say that at times, I have participated in some of these behaviors.  They are so easy to do.  These behaviors are a part of the Pyramid of Hate© and promote hatred, which can lead to violence.

None of us is born with the knowledge of how to hate, nor are we born with the knowledge of how to love.  These attributes are taught to us as we grow up and experience life.  Think back to Cloie in the posts “The Storm Inside of Cloie” and “Because I Care about You”.  Cloie was taught how to hate and then had to learn what it meant to love.

I have recently read a compelling and inspiring book by TJ Leyden called, Skinhead Confessions-From Hate to Hope.
In it, Mr. Leyden tells of his journey from being a little kid who was afraid to fight to the day something snapped and he started to fight often, to his becoming a Skinhead and participating in all the violence and hate that went along with his role in that organization, to his journey back to a peaceful life.  You can actually see his climb right up the Pyramid of Hate©.  What was fascinating and disconcerting was how easily he progressed from one level to the next.  I hope to meet this man one day.  I have great admiration for him and the challenges he was able to overcome and the positive changes he now has been able to bring to the world.

Next week, I will be writing about what I do when I teach about the Pyramid of Hate©.  What do we discuss in our classes and what examples do I use?  Over this next week, I challenge you to think about whether or not you have ever been involved in acts found on the Pyramid of Hate©.   Think about what you teach regarding peace and hatred and what could you do to teach these concepts more deliberately as both teachers and parents?

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

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