Sally Kohn is Calling for Connection and Compassion in the Age of Trump

Sally Kohn has a reputation for being ready to make nice.

The lesbian liberal commentator who for years called FOX News her home has friends across the aisle and spanning the spectrum of political ideologies. But after the 2016 election, Kohn noticed something shifting—not just across the country, as hateful rhetoric and bigoted violence provoked widespread conflict and a rise in nationalism, white supremacy and misogyny—but even within herself.

Sally Kohn found herself seething with anger. She found herself occupied by contempt. And so, she did the only thing she could to navigate her way back toward compassion—she went on a full-scale tour of hate’s myriad manifestations.

The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity is Kohn’s report back from a journey that took her around the world and into the lives of white supremacists, terrorists and Trump supporters. In an effort to map out internal and institutional types of hate, she reached out to Twitter trolls and sat down with survivors of genocide. What Kohn learned in her global tour of hate’s front lines was the importance of connection; what her engaging retellings of hate and healing show us is the urgency of seeking it out at all costs.

Through social science and compelling personal narratives, Kohn provides practical solutions to the rising tide of vitrol, hatred and conflict sweeping not just the U.S., but our global society. As politics and personal identities polarize us, she encourages us to continue cultivating common ground. Kohn breaks down what it is that makes us hate, demands us to be accountable to defying it and then challenges us to come together with the people we see as Other or simply don’t wish to understand.

“Ultimately, the opposite of hate is the beautiful and powerful reality of how we are all fundamentally linked and equal as human beings,” Kohn writes. “The opposite of hate is connection.” Through what Kohn identifies as connection-speech, connection-spaces, connection-thinking and connection-systems, she compels activists and everyday citizens alike to think differently about the people they disagree with, the people who approach them with hostility and even the people who seek to disempower, oppress and even hurt them. She connects the dots between building compassion toward our detractors on social media and enacting policies that rectify the codification of racism and sexism. She brilliantly illustrates the immense and disarming power of changing course and driving not toward division, but toward civility and mutual respect.

The Opposite of Hate is a new manual for organizers—one that defies the old norms of self-righteous mobilization against our opponents. It is a roadmap toward all-encompassing social change, in policy and in our own practices. It’s a holistic guide toward building a world where we are all greater than fear and more powerful than anger.

But make no mistake: Kohn is not asking us to drop our weapons and surrender. She never demands that we embrace our so-called enemies, or forget the injustices perpetuated against us. She isn’t even asking us to love our enemies. She’s just asking us to seek healing where we once demanded hostility, to take the first steps toward peace and civility, to begin walking a new path toward progress.

That isn’t to say there isn’t an alternative. Turn on the news and you’ll see what it looks like. Hate, contempt, vitrol, anger—those emotions are driving our political landscape and, currently, have a toxic hold on our everyday lives. We are under attack, and we are angry. We feel fired up, ready to go and unwilling to take any prisoners. But Kohn’s book is a stark reminder that the journey toward justice has never been paved with destruction or the denial of anyone’s humanity.

“We can relate to each other and society in general in ways that perpetuate hate,” Kohn offers. “Or we can spread inclusion and equality and justice—by choosing to connect.”

When I picked up this book, I didn’t realize that I had been making that choice every day—in my life and in my activism. After completing The Opposite of Hate, I felt driven to choose differently.

We’ll be talking to Sally Kohn on Friday, April 27 at 2 PM PST. Tune in LIVE and be notified when the discussion starts by liking Ms. on Facebook.




Carmen Rios is a self-proclaimed feminist superstar and the former digital editor at Ms. Her writing on queerness, gender, race and class has been published in print and online by outlets including BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, DAME, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic, the National Women’s History Museum, SIGNS and the Women’s Media Center; and she is a co-founder of Webby-nominated Argot Magazine. @carmenriosss|