BYSTANDERS TO HATE
Einstein said,”The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” I’ve watched a few clips of what goes on frequently at Trump rallies. In Janesville, Wisconsin a teenager was called a “bitch and a n****r lover.” In Tucson, Arizona a man hit and kicked a protester. In Cleveland, a man shouted at a black person,”Go back to Africa.” Also in Cleveland a Nazi supporter yelled, “Go to Auschwitz.”
What’s as alarming as the actual displays of verbal or physical violence is the presence of on-lookers who do nothing. In one video, people are checking their cell phones, giggling or talking amongst themselves, seemingly unconcerned that unbridled racism and hatred are being played out right in front of them. This is how societies unravel — not by the actions of aggressors but by the silent crowds who watch and don’t care.
On March 13, 1964, in the dead of night, a 28 year old woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in Kew Gardens, a supposedly safe neighborhood in Queens. 38 people heard her screams and did nothing. A few opened their windows and turned on their lights, scaring off the attacker. But no one called the police, and no one came to help as she screamed, “He stabbed me! Please help me!” The night turned quiet again as Kitty Genovese tried to make her way around the side of the building. Her attacker returned and stabbed her again. Again she screamed. Lights blinked on a second time, and the attacker left, this time driving off in his car. But he came back, found her slumped at the foot of the stairs and stabbed her a third time, this time fatally.
Only then did a neighbor call the police. They were there in 2 minutes. When asked why he didn’t call before, when she could have been saved, he said, “I didn’t want to get involved.” Other neighbors, who only emerged after her body was taken away, said they were afraid to call the police, but none could identify exactly what they were afraid of — safe in their own apartments, behind locked doors, a few feet from the phone that could have saved a woman’s life. One man said he was tired and had gone back to bed.
I was 12 years old when this happened. My parents told me the story, sparing no detail. They wanted me to understand that this is not how human beings should behave. You don’t turn away from violence toward others; you don’t shut your window, or your eyes, or your heart when another person is being hurt. The story lodged in my soul. I don’t understand bystanders who do nothing when a person is being attacked, and I don’t want to understand them.
But it would be a good idea for all of us to understand how dangerous this pattern is. No one has yet been mortally wounded at a Trump rally — ‘yet’ being the operative word — but there is no indication that anything would be different if things escalated to that degree. Would anyone help or intervene? It seems doubtful.
I am sickened by the stories of what’s going on at rallies for a man who wants to be President of the United States. I’m sickened that in Las Vegas a black man was taunted with chants of “Sieg Heil” followed by “Light the mother-fucker on fire.” I’m sickened that a black woman in Birmingham, Alabama was beaten and choked at a Trump rally, and that a black man in North Carolina was punched in the face. But the fact that thousands of people watched these things happen without doing anything scares the hell out of me.