Anti-Racism is Love Speech, Not Hate Speech

  • February 11, 2021

Our mission as a publishing company, "creating a world that works for all," is more controversial than it seems at first glance. Real talk: many people don't actually want the world to work for EVERYONE! They want to see the "good" guys win and the "bad" guys lose. 

Just as "defeating bad guys" won't create a world that works for all, neither will compromise within existing systems. Meeting in the middle of an existing system that doesn't value our diverse humanity accomplishes nothing. We need a new system. We won't get there by averaging our beliefs. We won't get there by asking marginalized people to settle for the halfway point between freedom and oppression. 

Tragically, many white Americans once considered abolition a revolutionary and extreme idea, for all the moral conclusion seems foregone today. Abraham Lincoln spoke a lot about unity before the Civil War began, but compromising with slave-holders wasn't the solution that healed our country. 

What does it mean to be on the right side of history while we struggle to agree on shared truths? How do you distinguish the difference between death-dealing conspiracy theory and life-giving hope? Our readers lately have been gravitating towards Sonya Renee Taylor's work for clarity on that vital question. 

The conclusion? History will vindicate those who stand against body terrorism. 

What is Body Terrorism?

When Taylor coined the controversial term "body terrorism," she revealed a unifying thread between Black people's fear of being shot by police, poor public health outcomes among Native Americans, a transgender teen's suicide, and other forms of dehumanization. In her book, The Body Is Not an Apology, she explains, "Across gender, sexual orientation, race, size, age, and ability level, our systems are constantly affirming or denouncing bodies, communicating to us what we should and should not consider valid about other people's bodies while simultaneously detailing for us what we should and should not accept about our own." The culture that defines Black bodies as criminal, Native American bodies as disposable, and transgender bodies as aberrant, is a culture that does daily violence to those bodies. 

"Dragging ourselves through a lifetime of self-hate endorsed and encouraged by our media and our political and economic systems is a terrifying way to live, and yet millions of people exist in this constant state of fear every day," Taylor writes. "Terrorism is defined as 'the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.' It takes no more than a brief review of the historical and present-day examples of media manipulation and legislative oppression to acknowledge that we are indeed being coerced into body shame for both economic and political reasons."

Although we routinely use the term "terrorism" to describe fear-based political violence, critics accused Taylor of hyperbole for using this word to describe hate crime. Depending on who commits terrorism, people will view fear & control tactics differently. In the unjust system, authority figures define their use of fear as righteous. And behold a double standard where the powerful can commit violence without being marginalized, punished, or labeled for it. 

Dismantling Oppression Means Challenging Double Standards

Social media is complicit in upholding double standards via biased social media bans, a phenomenon where people of color and LGBTQ+ people are getting kicked off social media for speaking out. Those who experience the trauma of violent double standards - like over-policing in black communities, misogyny, the string of recent anti-Asian hate crimes, and so many more - are asked to forgive and unify with the system that created those harmful narratives. Those of us who live under this oppression also desire unity - but there can be no unity without accountability. 

The insurrection at the Capitol Building on January 6th, 2021, speaks to the double standard in America. In media and dialogue surrounding the attempted coup, the mostly white participants were called "protestors." They were given free rein of the Capitol building and treated with kindness by many security guards and police officers. This is a stark contrast from the media coverage and police treatment of the protestors in the Movement for Black Lives last year. This double standard is apparent, shocking, and harrowing. Still, it is only one of many examples of the deadly double standards that harm communities marginalized by white supremacy. 

There are two Americas - one in which people are told they are created equal, and another in which people of color, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, and poor people are denied their basic humanity. We cannot have unity until the first system is transformed to support everyone, and the second system is disbanded entirely. This means reevaluating how we uphold the systems that oppress others. Simple actions, such as seeing Black women like Stacey Abrams as responsible for "Saving America" might seem reverent: but it perpetuates the notion that Black women should continue to do work for a country that has not reciprocated that investment. 

Radical "Love Speech" as the Counter to Hate Speech

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, Sonya Renee Taylor had an MLK quote taken down from her Instagram account because bad actors reported it as "hate speech." She asked Instagram to address racial bias in their content moderation processes and reporting tools. "Anti-racism is not hate speech: it is love speech," she insisted. Instagram's response so far has been less than satisfactory.

In his own day, Martin Luther King Jr. was criticized for extremism. He replied to his critics by saying, "The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?" According to this pastor and civil rights leader, Jesus Christ was "an extremist for love." 

The second edition of Sonya Renee Taylor's bestselling book, The Body is Not An Apology, discusses how being an extremist for self-love is the first step to transforming the world. Radical self-love becomes radical others-love, which exposes double standards, and makes valuing every human being feel natural. 

Being a radical for love is the best way to counter those who are radicals for hate. A "compromise" between love and hate is nothing more than passive-aggressive hypocrisy. What is compromise? It's a midway place between winning and losing that satisfies no one. What will bring peace is a system where nobody needs to "lose" in order for someone else to "win."


If you want to become an accomplice in the work for justice or fight in your organization to bring about a just world, make sure you check out The Body is Not an Apology and its accompanying workbook, Your Body is Not An Apology. 

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