When actress and comedian Maysoon Zayid made her television debut on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" in 2010, she was shocked to see a barrage of hateful comments posted about her online. Zayid is a Palestinian-American Muslim woman with cerebral palsy -- and a hateful cyber community had plenty to say about her appearance, religion and ethnicity.
"This one person said, 'Poor Gumby-mouth terrorist. We should pray for her,'" Zayid says.
While it would be easy -- and understandable -- to lash out, Zayid makes a point to respond to her haters with compassion. In the above video from "In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod," she shares her views on social media and bullying on a panel at the Nexus Youth Summit.
"Having compassion is not easy," she says. "And it challenges me every day. It's so much easier to lash out and hate the people who are being hateful to you than try to actually connect with them and engage and see why they're doing it and see if there's anything you can do to make them stop."
Zayid says she questions what social media has done to our compassion. "I think that social media has really empowered bullies because you get to do it from the comfort of your own home, completely anonymously, with no ramifications. And that's what's happening on social media. You see people from each side dehumanizing the people around them. You see teens in high school that have to leave the town they're living in because they've been so severely bullied. And the parents are not stopping it."
Growing up, Zayid lived in a small New Jersey town where she was never picked on or made to feel different. Her loving family gave her the strong support she needed to learn how to walk, attend college and pursue her dreams. But there are so many other people, Zayid says, that have cerebral palsy or another disability that have no one. That's why she started fighting back.
"People would tell me, 'Why do you respond to these anonymous trolls? They have no effect on you, you're bigger than that,'" she says. "And the reason I respond is because someone has to. Because if no one ever tells them, 'Stop. Think about what you're saying. Are you proud of this?' then they will go after someone not as strong as me. And when they go after someone not as strong as me, that person might take their own life. And if there is anything I can do to make people stop with the hate and find something better to focus on, that's my goal."
In the video below, Zayid appears on HuffPost Live and talks more about advocating for people with disabilities.
"In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod" airs Sundays at noon ET on OWN.
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