3 Inspiring Responses To Violence

Being the victim of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of hate can be a devastating and terrifying experience. Yet there are some people who have not let such incidents demoralize them and instead have come up with inspiring responses to hate. Their stories prove that by using our experiences to educate people and fight for a better world, we can bring something good out of some of the worst situations possible.

Statistics show that we are far from a society where everyone is accepted and free to live safely as they are. According to a poll by the research firm YouGov, 55 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam. YouGov has found that a third of Americans believe it is immoral to be transgender. And national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys show that 12-28 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school.

Mistreatment and even criminal attacks based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and other aspects of people's identity are still very common. Unfortunately, for many groups of people, just being out in public can be scary. The good news is that, through their bravery, we now have a greater awareness of the discrimination still rampant throughout our society and how to combat it. Here are some people who fought back against hate crimes and chose to send messages of love instead.

1. Isaac Keatinge

Keatinge, a 25-year-old man in Newtown, Australia, was allegedly beaten for wearing a dress while his attackers used homophobic insults. He suffered from a head injury and a black eye. The alleged attackers have not been identified. To show that he would not let alleged violent backlash stop him from being who he is, he did a photoshoot in the Australian magazine Heaps Gay — while wearing dresses. "I feel surrounded by a willful and violent ignorance," he told the magazine. Still, he said, “I suppose I have a sense of faith within our diverse community, and hope that wider society, including Australia, will one day follow suit.”

2. Rana Abdelhamid

Abdelhamid claims in the video above that when she was 16, a man attacked her on the street and tried to remove her hijab. (The incident was never brought to law enforcement.) Soon afterward, she started the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), which provides self-defense classes as well as career training and mentorship to Muslim women, who are frequent victims of hate crimes. Now, her organization teaches classes all over the world to help women defend themselves against the violence they all too frequently experience.

3. Cole Ledford

While Ledford was walking down the street with his boyfriend, a group of men allegedly called them "fags." Then, after his boyfriend left, one of them punched Ledford, he told The Lantern. Afterward, he turned this act of hate around and posted a message of love to Twitter, addressing his alleged attacker:

"I'm sorry that you called me fag. I'm sorry you hit me for no reason. I'm sorry whatever insecurities you have don't allow you to accept others for who they are. I'm sorry I threaten you. I'm NOT sorry I'm gay. I'm proud to be this way. I'm proud to be confident enough to love who I love and to love me."

He decided not to report the incident to the police because, after he received an outpouring of support and even heard from someone who came out to his family as a result, he felt enough good had come of it, he told The Lantern . “It was something that I was really upset about, but it turned into something so positive that it helped me."