Countering hate speech through the media: a young Caribbean woman’s perspective


  • Opinion by Isheba Cornwall (mona, jamaica
  • Inter Press Service

As a black student from Jamaica, especially as part of Generation Z, I have witnessed numerous attacks in the form of hate speech. This phenomenon has grown tremendously over the years and has taken various shapes and forms. An important reason for this is the advancement of technology, and even more so the creation of new media or social media.

What’s interesting, though, is that the same platforms used to immortalize hate speech can also be used to combat it in creative ways. We must realize that we are an unhappy generation of young people.

Because of the contrasting beliefs and viewpoints we have around identity, we are constantly struggling to embrace each other’s uniqueness. Grief consumes us and acts as a catalyst for hate speech. Which, if left untreated, leads to violent behavior.

We are often unimpressed by the power of language and uninterested in how our speech can wreak havoc. Many reasons come to mind when I think about why the infectious disease hate continues to spread.

One of the main reasons is the lack of education, which comes from being socialized in a way that glorifies hate and celebrates violence. This is not an idea based on mere observation, but rather the reality for many Caribbean people – myself included – who grew up in vulnerable communities.

The sad truth is that the individuals who had to take care of us were themselves raised in toxic environments that did not teach them how to properly interact with other people, especially those who are different from them.

Therefore, the need to express discontent was almost always done in a way that conveys hatred. This is what they learned. And indeed, this is what they know.

It’s like a full circle: older generations teach us, their children, to express hatred, and so the cycle of hatred continues. While there are many ways to combat this position that promotes hate speech, including through socialization institutions such as schools and churches, other stakeholders, including the media, have a role to play. They are needed to grow a community of emotionally intelligent and understanding people.

From a Caribbean perspective, hatred spreads because of negative stereotypes that stem from our history, for example through colonization. Negative stereotypes see some groups or individuals as different or inferior to others.

For example, a lighter-skinned person gets a job over a dark-skinned woman like me. Or a man gets more pay than my friend, a woman equally qualified.

Harmful stereotyping feeds hate speech and appears when we see the idea that one group is superior and the other inferior. This has pitted us against each other, and to amplify this, we take to social media and spew hateful comments at individuals coming from groups considered “less than”.

Unfortunately, this mindset is entrenched in our minds, and without the desire to unlearn these tendencies, hate speech — and ultimately violence — will persist.

Hate speech is one of those problems that can affect society and develop into something worse. Hateful phrases and casual racist remarks – the language used to emphasize our dislike for something or someone are omnipotent, impactful and dangerous.

Especially if many people believe them. Hate speech, if it continues to thrive, can lead to serious acts of violence on a large scale. And it’s no secret that hate speech contributes to hate crimes.

That’s why we need innovative and creative ways to fight hate speech. I believe that both traditional and new media can provide support. For example, by devising and creating educational, fun and fascinating programs on television and radio for young people.

But to convince young people, they must believe that whoever is sharing this information with them understands their circumstances and that the story they are told is relevant to their lives.

With cultivation theory in mind – a theory that suggests that individuals who primarily consume television programs are more likely to perceive the real world in a way usually portrayed in television reports, we could argue that constantly presenting programs in which hate speech is considered unacceptable being tagged can have a positive impact on viewers, which can influence their behavior.

With the rise of social media, the transfer of information is as fast as the speed of light, and unfortunately hate speech or cyber hatred follows closely. There has never been a time when I scrolled through social media when I didn’t come across an offensive speech. It is alarming that a single person does not engage in hate speech; rather, it is often a large group of individuals – perhaps due to misconceptions and misinformation.

Creative campaigns via social media platforms can also help to combat the problem. This will not solve the problem; however, social media can be used to combat hate speech through ‘contradiction’.

That is easily digestible content sharing aimed at inclusivity, equality and diversity. Imagine funny videos teaching young people how to disagree in a respectful way, or ‘live’ sessions with influencers sharing their experiences of hate speech.

Live sessions with influencers using humor and creative campaigns would be quite powerful these days and could also make a very accurate statement so loud that young people would be forced to listen and pay attention to it.

Much more can be done, for example by establishing codes of conduct that influence online behavior in one way or another. The ultimate goal would be to educate young people to be respectful and not give in to hate speech.

I see and imagine a society full of love, peace and understanding. While there is no single cure for hate speech, my wish is that young people stand up and fight against it so that this disease will have no place in our society.

We need to rethink and redefine our ideas about identity, gender and race. And those working together to create new pressure points to tackle hate speech must listen to the voices of young people.

The author is a social media strategist, radio host and producer, and student of the Integrated Marketing Communication program at the Caribbean School of Media and Communication on the Mona Campus in Jamaica of the University of the West Indies, a member institution of the United Nations Academic Impact ( UNAI).

To learn more about the issues and work the United Nations is doing to counter hate speech, visit hate speech | United Nations† Join the #NoToHate campaign to fight hate speech (feel free to use the resources available here)

Source: UN Academic Impact, United Nations

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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