This week we continue our discussion on dealing with the hard cases by utilizing Sternberg’s taxonomy of hate. The first entry in Sternberg’s taxonomy is cool hate. Cool hate is characterized by visceral feelings of disgust toward a particular group and a desire to avoid them. Members of the subject group may even be viewed as subhuman and empathy is absent or minimal. Cool hate takes some time to develop and does not generally flare up suddenly. Here is an example of what cool hate might sound like, taken from our files.
“Teenagers+guns=Turf wars=Gangs. Thank Section 8, parents and the “hip-hop” gangsta’ media. Good luck CPD in keeping or neighborhoods safe. Good luck neighbors in “fighting back.” Do whatever you can to send these teenagers and their families back to St. Louis or Kansas City or wherever else they come from.” -Comment from the Columbia Tribune website in regards to an article written after the shooting death of a teenager.
You might also suspect you will be dealing with cool hate when you hear comments like “I’ve got nothing against them, but they have nothing really to contribute so I don’t think they need to be involved”; or “we can talk to them at a later stage — let’s start where we are most comfortable and likely to make some progress.” Cool Hate may well be a dynamic in areas that have experienced rapid growth and development where residents haven’t had a chance to develop a sense of community; in ethnically diverse communities, that are experiencing economic strain and competition over jobs; or communities where there are long-standing divisions such as strained town-gown relations.
If you suspect that Cool Hate may be a factor in your community discussions, it would be useful to start slowly with dialogue structures like Listening Circles or Study Circles that help build connections between individuals and groups. In this case the familiarity that is promoted by such dialogue eases rather than breeds contempt, allowing personal interaction to overcome pre-existing tension and distrust. This allows subsequent deliberative dialogues focused on issues to be more productive. Careful planning of the prompts used in the listening dialogues can lay a foundation for subsequent work.
Facilitation skills that are particularly useful in addressing cool hate include a strong sense of hospitality extended to all, the ability to both invite and accept a diversity of thought, straightforward reflection of thoughts shared, the ability to introduce new concepts in nonthreatening ways, translation among participants, and use of open ended questions. All of these promote listening in new ways, and ultimately greater understanding and acceptance among diverse participants.