A lack of information, understanding, and empathy breeds intolerance and hatred. As author and lecturer Brené Brown said in her bestselling book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, it’s hard to hate people when you see them up close and know their story.
Likewise, former First Lady and author Michelle Obama said in her memoir, Becoming, “When voters got to see me as a person, they understood that the caricatures were untrue. I’ve learned that it’s harder to hate up close.”
Studies have shown that when we encounter someone who we believe to be different from us, our unconscious mind, or implicit bias, takes over. When we see someone whose identity we believe to be different from our own, our implicit bias may cause us to stereotype. We tend to lump people into the same basket, assuming that all members of an identity group share the same attributes. We might base this on a single past experience, things we heard growing up, or images we’ve seen. We judge what we don’t really know.
On the other hand, the experience can be completely different when you know someone’s story. Just as a lack of information, understanding, and empathy breeds intolerance and hatred, the presence of information, understanding, and empathy breeds open-mindedness and respect. When we actively listen and get to know one another, we find commonalities. We find that we might actually identify with one another in ways we never expected. And with that… it becomes hard to hate up close.
That’s the spirit behind our very first open mic night event. This is an opportunity to tell your story through spoken word, storytelling, music, song, or some other means of self-expression. We invite students, faculty, and staff to participate in this event, which we hope will serve as a platform for us to better see one another and discover common ground. We encourage you to offer a glimpse into who you are — sharing your journey, explaining how your identity has influenced your lens, and helping us break stereotypes.
About the event
Hard to Hate Up Close: Open Mic Night will be held on Tuesday, February 1, 2022, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. (ET). You can either submit a video of your performance in advance or perform live during the event. Performances can be up to five minutes long. Performers must register and submit videos (if not performing live) by January 18. Whether you choose to submit a video or perform live, all performers are expected to attend the event on February 1, which will include a Q&A session for the audience and performers. Those who plan to perform live must also attend a 30-minute rehearsal on January 25 at 7:00 p.m. (ET).
If you have questions about the event or want more information, contact me at Denita@psu.edu. We all have a story to tell, and we look forward to hearing yours!