Hate speech against migrants and refugees is all too common, both online and in the real world. But it isn’t always easy to know how to react effectively – and it’s even harder to respond in a way which changes attitudes.
In the run-up to elections, politics is a frequent topic of debate. But if the discussion turns nasty – either around the dinner table or on your social media feed – here are some tips to help you make a constructive contribution to a more positive discourse.
If we speak up together, we can tackle
anti-migrant hate speech!
GET THE FACTS
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
FLIP THE CONVERSATION
APPEAL TO THE HEART
IF ALL ELSE FAILS,
This is the most important advice of all. It’s easy to dismiss somebody as a racist or type an angry reply to a hateful comment. It might even feel good! But it doesn’t do anything to build dialogue, which is vital for building understanding.
Stay positive. Don’t counter hate with hate. Show solidarity with migrants and refugees without attacking the instigators of hate speech. Start a conversation – not an argument.
Take a moment to think about what might be motivating somebody’s hate in the first place. Even online, a quick look at a social media profile might reveal what its owner cares about. Maybe they’re worried about public spending, or have a religiously-inspired concern. Perhaps they’re proud of their community and worried about newcomers – or simply afraid of “the other.”
Whatever the case, counter-narratives are far more effective when you’re on the same page. Address somebody’s concerns and they’re more likely to hear what you have to say.
GET THE FACTS
Hate is often based on fear of what we don't understand, and there’s a lot of confusion out there when it comes to refugees and migrants. Sometimes, pointing somebody in the direction of trustworthy and reliable information can be the first step to changing attitudes.
Why not take a look at our myth-buster page for some help in countering common misconceptions – or send the link to somebody else? It only takes a moment, and could be the first step in a learning process which leads somebody away from hateful narratives.
There are so many positive stories about migrants and refugees out there – enough to respond to almost any hateful comment. “Refugees don’t contribute?” What about the one who just won the Nobel Peace Prize? Across Europe, migrants and refugees are doing amazing things, and the power of the internet can help you find countless examples. Maybe some of them are just down the street!
One caveat: try not to fall into the trap of defending migrants and refugees in purely economic terms. Sure, migration is good for the economy – but we need to think of them as human beings with rights, not just as workers. If you can, try to respond to economic concerns in human terms.
APPEAL TO THE HEART
Deep down, even the most hate-filled troll is a human being. And hate is about values as well as facts. With that in mind, there’s nothing wrong with appealing to somebody’s emotions when responding to hateful comments. It’s not cheating to rely on empathy, as well as statistics. “How would you feel if you had to flee a violent conflict and cross the sea in a raft?”
Alternatively, encourage people to think about their core values. “If we had to leave our homes, wouldn’t we hope that somebody, somewhere, would be willing to help? Surely our great country is compassionate enough to lend a hand?” Make kindness something to be proud of.
They might not respond there and then, but hopefully they’ll think about it later. Who knows the change of heart you may set in motion. Words have an incredible emotional power – use them well!
Hate speech can be upsetting, not to mention overwhelming – but rest assured that you’re not alone. Building positive narratives together with like-minded people can be more effective than working alone, and might even boost your morale in the process.
There are plenty of great initiatives out there which connect like-minded people who want to respond to violent and dehumanising speech against migrants and refugees in a more coordinated way. In some countries like Germany and Sweden there are dedicated Facebook groups which aim to do just that.
For some further inspiration, take a look at examples of initiatives from around Europe, or simply search online for an anti-hate speech campaign in your country or language.
Sometimes, it’s just not possible to engage with someone whose aim is purely to cause controversy or spread hate. In cases like these, remember that all major social media companies allow you to signal hateful comments for moderation.
HATE SPEECH AND THE
GET THE FACTS ABOUT
MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
Hate begins with fear, and fear is so often built on lack of understanding.
Our myth-buster page explores the
facts behind the headlines.
Keep track of hateful narratives used by MEPs and Parliamentary candidates thanks to our Hate Speech Tracker.
Let's make #EP2019 more positive!