Hype only Builds Hysteria

Hype only builds hysteria

Hysteria has been around for a long time, and the end results remain the same. It starts when fear raises its ugly head, looks around and tries to convince someone else to join a fight. It acts as a smokescreen to a person’s sense of inadequacy. It ends in someone getting hurt.

Hysteria acts as a smokescreen to a person's sense of inadequacy. Click To Tweet

Hysteria makes no pretenses—it never claims to be reasonable or logical. Take for example what happened in Detroit in the 1920s, when black professionals tried to break the color line and purchase houses in a ‘white’ section of town.

Whites, worried that their property values would drop (a collusion of the local bankers and Realtors® ensured that this would happen), formed community improvement societies to run any black homeowners out of town (you can read more in the book Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle).

Because someone arbitrarily decided that property values depended on the color of the owner’s skin, normally reasonable folks joined the KKK and did all they could to drive out anyone who didn’t match their skin color.

I grew up mostly in the western part of the United States, and figured that prejudice had died with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Wrong. When we started shopping for our first house in the late 80s, the Realtor® steered us to another part of town when I inquired about less expensive options. “That part of town is a little dark,” she explained.

“I thought it had fewer shade trees than that other section,” I demurred. “It looked perfectly sunny to me.”

“No,” she coughed and sputtered a bit, “I can’t really say more.”

“I don’t get it,” I answered.

She muttered under her breath, clearly uncomfortable and wishing she hadn’t brought the topic up, “It’s mostly blacks and Hispanics on that side of town.”

I wish now that I would have responded with a pithy comeback such as, “We ought to fit right in—remember, our last name is Ojeda,” or, “Isn’t it illegal to discriminate in housing and isn’t that what you’re doing by calling that part of town ‘dark?’” but I didn’t. My brain doesn’t operate well under shock.

Only now, 27 years later, when hysteria seems to be choking the brains out of normal people, do I see that I should have reacted with kindness and gently spoken to the lady on her racism. In fearing to offend, I’ve contributed to the problem by my silence.

I don’t think we need to build hysteria or jump on any bandwagons. Right now the pointy fingers of outrage might be pointed at police officers. Tomorrow, it could be pointed at you. Those pointy fingers connect to shaking hands that desperately want to hide some inadequacy.

Face it, we are all terribly, terminally human. We all have much to learn and many roads to travel. We can travel through the adrenalin-pumping hype of hysteria, or we can thoughtfully, inquisitively build each other up as travel along.


Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Wonderful and fitting post today Anita!
    Visiting from #fmf today.

  • THIS: “Face it, we are all terribly, terminally human. We all have much to learn and many roads to travel. We can travel through the adrenalin-pumping hype of hysteria, or we can thoughtfully, inquisitively build each other up as travel along.” Yes let’s build each other up. I’m in the #5 spot this week.
    Tara recently posted…Build One Another UpMy Profile

  • “…terribly, terminally human.”
    Wow, how profound a statement is that?

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts!


  • Don

    Was it hysteria that eventually killed Detroit? Or the fact that it eventually “turned Black?”
    For it IS a place of the walking dead, now. Motor City was once a place of outrageous decadence in the 1920’s. Now, more than half of its 136 square miles are empty lots and buildings that look like they survived a ground zero of WW II. (See LIFE photo essay here: http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1882089,00.html )
    Now, back to my original questions. Which came first? The hysteria or the blacks?
    I believe it was neither, but more the greed of people who pursue wealth and power for its own sake. Detroit’s problems are not confined to Detroit, but are seen on a smaller scale all over America… even the very small town of Battle Ground, WA in which I was raised.
    It has gone through through growing pains. Old buildings have been torn down or abandoned. Older communities are now occupied by the poorer people, while the more affluent have built large housing complexes to rent to the struggling “upwardly mobile” generations, and those wealthier ones have built million dollar mansions on their “country manors” in the surrounding hills. There are even “New Town” and an “Old Town” portions of the original Battle Ground. The town of my childhood has become the bedroom for workers in Portland, OR .. just a 30 mile, two hour commute away.
    Realtors may have had something to do with perpetuating the Hysteria in Detroit and Reno, but Labor Unions are not without blame in the march of hysteria. Nor can we leave out organized religion, with each organization preaching that only THEY have the way to Salvation. In reality, Christ is the only way, not a group’s set of rules and dogma.
    Back in the 1920’s the major cause of hysteria may have been the “Blacks.” In your youth the “bad guys” were the Mexicans banging on our boarders. Today, it is shifting to Muslims that are making mayhem in our way of life.
    Whatever comes along next to develop our hysterical hernias, you can be sure that it will be fueled by greed and man’s inhumanity toward others.

  • Well said, my friend. I struggle with staying silent vs. fueling the fire.
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