Yesterday, March 2, 2010, the Southern Poverty Law center issued a new report on hate groups in America.
The report documents a 244 percent increase in the number of active Patriot groups in 2009. Their numbers grew from 149 groups in 2008 to 512 groups in 2009, an astonishing addition of 363 new groups in a single year. Militias – the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement – were a major part of the increase, growing from 42 militias in 2008 to 127 in 2009.
An April 2009 assessment by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis said pointedly: “Lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”
Slowly, but steadily, these bigots are slithering from beneath their rocks, armed and deadly.
Almost as disturbing as the incidents themselves are the family, friends and neighbors who talk about the vitriol they heard and the warning signs they saw. What did they say or do about it? What any of us do? My suspicion is that far too many do far too little.
Although people say that they would be very upset by a racist act and would take action, their actual reactions were much more muted because people are much less willing to pay the emotional cost of the confrontation than they thought they would be. I am not confrontational, but I hope that I could summon the courage to say something.
This is the final piece in my series, Hate in America. I’ll be honest–I hate certain groups too. Maybe that’s why I undertook this series. I hate most Republicans, and think they are anathema to humanitarian values. I hate Rush Limbaugh and I hate Glenn Beck, to name just two examples, because I honestly believe they are a danger to our country. And Ann Coulter? Don’t get me started! They are every bit the enemy combatants as are the most rabid Al Qaida terrorists. I hate haters, but what does that make me? But in my defense, is it irrational to hate those people who one believes are out to hurt me? I do take their statements and ideology personally, because they are working very deliberately to change America into a place I don’t want to be—and worse, where I don’t want my children and grandchildren to be. I don’t think my hatred is irrational, but then, who does? I know that hatred is a toxic emotion and wish I had an antivenin for the poison it spreads.
So, enough. Let’s put that aside for a while and see what others, more evolved than I, have done to combat hate.
I am glad to report that there are many groups working hard to combat hate and to prevent it. Hate has been with us since Cain and Abel—or, if you prefer, since Neanderthals encountered Homo sapiens.
We will never be able to eradicate hate. Human beings are irrational beings; we are not Vulcans. But there are steps we can take to combat hate. We can start with ourselves for insight into our own prejudices. We can teach our children tolerance and conflict resolution. We can educate adults about the effects of hate. We can legislate against hate crimes. While we will never eradicate it, there are steps we can take against it.
The Internet has been rightly hailed as a groundbreaking interactive marketplace of ideas, in which anyone with the necessary hardware and software can set up a cyber-stall. But the downside of this unparalleled information exchange is that, alongside its many valuable online resources, the Net also offers a host of offensive materials – including hate materials – that attempt to inflame public opinion against certain groups of people.
A few months ago, I was on the Huffington Post, reading and commenting on a thread about the Federal Reserve. There were several posters expressing their beliefs that the Fed was up to nefarious deeds and should either be abolished or made transparent. Fine—they are certainly entitled to their opinions. But as I read, something started to look familiar about some comments. I recognized that a few posters were indirectly accusing Jewish bankers as controlling the Fed, (and thus the monetary system of the United States and even the world) by listing all the Jewish-sounding names of fed bankers. When I Googled those names, it turned out that they were not only incorrect, but were part of an old anti-Semitic tract called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I called them on it and was roundly and harshly criticized. I was so upset, I emailed the Anti Defamation League about it. I got no reply, but subsequently, I read that several prominent Jewish bloggers no longer post their blogs on HP, due to the response of its readers. (As an aside, Abe Foxman, the National Director of the ADL, has some serious credibility problems .)
Bigotry and hatred thrive on ignorance, fear, false information and half-truths. But if readers are able to deconstruct any messages of hate that come their way, much of the messages’ power is reduced. This makes critical thinking skills an indispensable part of an anti-hate tool kit.
What We Can Do About Internet Hate
If people want to do something about hate material they see on the Internet, there are several options:
Contact the Internet Service Provider
All over the world, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are being forced to become more proactive about hate material on their servers. Most ISPs now have Acceptable Use Policies that clearly define the guidelines for using their services, as well as the penalties for violating those guidelines. However, ISPs do not have the legal power to decide what material is illegal; and so most are reluctant to remove suspect content from their servers without official direction from a law enforcement agency.
Report online hate to the police
Some urban police departments now have a High-Tech Crime Unit to investigate online offences. If none exists, a complaint can be made to the local police. It’s advisable to attach a copy of the offending material to the letter of complaint.
Check out “hate watch” Web sites:
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
(Combats media stereotyping, defamation, and discrimination against Americans of Arab descent through legal action and education.)
(Combats anti-semitism and racial supremacist ideology,
published Hate Crimes Laws: A Comprehensive Guide.)
Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund
(Community education, legal counseling and advocacy on behalf of victims of anti-Asian violence.)
Center For Democratic Renewal
(Published When Hate Groups Come to Town: A Handbook of Effective Community Responses.)
Center for New Community
(Publishes special reports on anti-immigrant groups)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
(Published, Law Enforcement Official’s Guide to the Muslim Community)
(Combats racisms and fights for civil rights.)
National Council of Churches
(Organized nationally to rebuild burnt churches in 1996.)
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
(Fights hate crime; monitors attacks on civil liberties.)
The National Urban League
(Increasing civil rights, educational and financial opportunities for African Americans through programs and research.)
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
(Support for families of Gays and Lesbians with hundreds of local chapters).
People for the American Way
(Supports community organizing for freedom of thought, expression and religion.)
Political Research Associates
1310 Broadway, Suite 201
Somerville, MA 02144
(Think-tank monitoring the full spectrum of hate organizations.)
Southern Poverty Law Center
(Reports on hate crime and advances the legal rights of victims of injustice. Home of Klanwatch.)
Study Circles Resource Center
(Helps communities and organizations begin small democratic, discussion groups that can make significant progress on difficult issues including race.)
100 Black Men of America
(Helps young African Americans to overcome financial and cultural obstacles through mentoring, anti-violence, education and economic development programs.)
California Association of Human Relations Organizations
(Works with groups to develop statewide responses to hate crimes.)
Montana Human Rights Network
Western States Center
(Works to fight intolerance in the Northwest.)
(Community-based organizing project that combats violence against women, economic injustice, racism, sexism, and homophobia in the South.)
If hateful Internet communications do not cross the line into incitement to imminent lawless action or a true threat, they receive First Amendment protection. The U.S. is a free speech outlier in the arena of hate speech– many other countries criminalize online hate speech.
However, even in the United States, certain forms of hateful speech — such as cyberbullying in schools and targeted harassment — may continue to face increased regulation.
How hate sites contribute to hate crimes
The Internet does a couple of things for hate groups. First of all, it raises the impact that a single hate-monger can have. Not too many years ago, a single Klansman would have to go to a great deal of effort and spend quite a bit of money and find a sympathetic printer in order to produce a pamphlet that might reach 100 people.
Now the same Klansman, for almost no money, is able to very quickly put up a Web site that has the potential to reach millions. The other thing the Internet does is let haters network easily. Many of these people are on listserv programs, so if something of interest happens in one part of the country, very soon people all over know about it. Or very often sympathizers just see information posted in announcements on other people’s Web pages.
Law enforcement agencies must assume a central role in implementing the hate crime prevention, and response. The authorities won’t be able to stop every “lone wolf” with a gun and a gripe. But we, as a society, can do a much better job of creating an environment where hateful beliefs are never ignored and suspicious behavior never goes unreported.
What Law Enforcement Can Do
From the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
To develop and implement successful intervention strategies to deal with hate groups, law enforcement personnel first must understand the hate process. The hate model identifies the multiple stages of the hate process. Investigators can use this model to identify haters who have not yet transitioned from hate rhetoric to hate violence and target them with intervention programs, which have a higher probability of success. Likewise, law enforcement personnel can identify and target hard-core haters with appropriate interdiction strategies. Knowing how the hate process works helps interviewers penetrate the hate mask and address the hater’s underlying personal insecurities. If investigators can attenuate these personal insecurities, haters will become more receptive to rehabilitation. Identifying and understanding the stages of the hate process constitute the first steps in controlling hate violence.
From the International Association of Chiefs of Police:
Investing in prejudice reduction and violence prevention is vital to reducing the incidence of hate crime. The International Association of Chiefs of Police convened a summit in 1999 to address hate groups and hate crimes. Participants were hopeful that communities, schools, and justice system agencies could work together to create and maintain conditions in which prejudice gives way to tolerance and bias-motivated violence is replaced with peaceful problem-solving. Summit participants recommended proactive initiatives to help communities prevent bias-motivated incidents and hate crime.
The 1998 IACP Hate Crime in America Summit produced 46 recommendations to:
- Prevent Hate Crime
- Respond to Hate Crime
- Measure the Effectiveness of Prevention and Response Efforts
Collectively, the recommendations constitute an action agenda to advance understanding of hate crime, prevent hate crime, and improve the effectiveness of our response to this complex and challenging social problem. The agenda sets forth roles and responsibilities for a coordinated, community-wide response by citizens, schools and colleges, police, justice system agencies, social service agencies, and victims.
The summit also produced a Law Enforcement Action Agenda —12 essential actions to help police address hate crime.
Following are some useful strategies that may be used as tools to promote tolerance:
What Individuals Can Do
Individuals should continually focus on being tolerant of others in their daily lives. This involves consciously challenging the stereotypes and assumptions that they typically encounter in making decisions about others and/or working with others either in a social or a professional environment.
What the Media Can Do
The media should use positive images to promote understanding and cultural sensitivity. The more groups and individuals are exposed to positive media messages about other cultures, the less they are likely to find faults with one another — particularly those communities who have little access to the outside world and are susceptible to what the media tells them.
What the Educational System Can Do
Educators are instrumental in promoting tolerance and peaceful coexistence. For instance, schools that create a tolerant environment help young people respect and understand different cultures. In Israel, an Arab and Israeli community called Neve Shalom or Wahat Al-Salam (“Oasis of Peace”) created a school designed to support inter-cultural understanding by providing children between the first and sixth grades the opportunity to learn and grow together in a tolerant environment.
Although this is about hate in America, there is probably no better example of intractable conflict than that between Palestinians and Israelis. These short videos show how historic hatred can be overcome. This is an example of an extreme solution, but maybe that’s what it will take.
Problems arise when people simply do not understand one another. At the community school in Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam – named in both Hebrew and Arabic – children learn both languages at a very young age, thus cultivating a spirit of communication and mutual understanding. 5 minutes.
A 10-min presentation of the binational village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam in Israel. The “Oasis of Peace” is the only community in the country where Palestinians and Jews choose to live, work and raise their children together in equality and mutual respect.
What Organizations Can Do
There are several wonderful organizations working tirelessly to combat hate through education and intervention. Many of them are listed above, but I’d like to highlight just a few that are doing exceptional work.
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program is working to foster school environments that are inclusive and nurturing – classrooms where equality and justice are not just taught, but lived. They distribute a magazine called Teaching Tolerance which reaches more than 400,000 educators across the country. Published twice a year and is provided free to educators.
In addition to the magazine, they also provide multimedia teaching kits, online curricula, professional development resources like Teaching Diverse Students Initiative and special projects like Mix It Up at Lunch Day. These materials are provided to educators at no cost.
Here is a sampling of some of the curricula from their wonderful program:
The Simon Wiesenthal Center
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to generating change through the social action and education by confronting anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations. It is accredited as an NGO at international organizations including the United Nations, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Simon Wiesenthal Center maintains offices in New York, Toronto, Boca Raton, Paris, Buenos Aires and Jerusalem.
Museum of Tolerance
The Center’s educational arm challenges visitors to confront bigotry and racism, and to understand the Holocaust in both historic and contemporary contexts. Over 1.5 million children and youth have participated in the Museum experience and its programs. Over 110,000 adults have been trained in the Museum’s professional development programs which include Tools for Tolerance, Teaching Steps to Tolerance, Task Force Against Hate, National Institute Against Hate Crimes, Tools for Tolerance for Teens and Bridging the Gap.
Hate groups are growing. Their techniques of recruitment run the range from simple and inexpensive, to sophisticated and technologically advanced, and are aimed with specificity at every age-group and social class. On the one hand, fascist organizations must be exposed, combated, and destroyed. On the other hand, in order to eliminate the soil in which hate grows, corporate manipulation of the media and exploitation of the people must be reversed. The slogan of the day ought to be: more funds – not less – for health care, unemployment insurance, welfare, and education. The rise in hate can be defeated.
In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in a letter from a Birmingham jail, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” That’s still true.
Other Helpful Links:
Artists Against Racism
An international non-profit organization featuring dozens of artists taking a stand against racism.
Challenging prejudice, discrimination, and domination based on ethnicity, race, national origin, language, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation age, class, ability, size.
Civil Rights Organization
Recruits, educates and mobilizes individuals of good conscience in the ongoing struggle for equal opportunity.
Cross Point Anti-Racism
A large collection of links in the field of human rights, anti-racism, refugees, women’s rights, anti-fascism, Shoah, etc.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
A resource for discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Equal Pay Act (EPA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Eliminating Racism and Creating Equality
A non-profit organization focused on dismantling the invisible, yet socially destructive boundaries that have been fortified by the divisiveness of racial discrimination.
Institute for Global Communications
Advancing the work of progressive organizations and individuals for peace, justice, economic opportunity, human rights, democracy and environmental sustainability through strategic use of online technologies.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Their principal objectives are to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality in the United States and to eliminate race prejudice.
National Association of Black & White Men Together
A group committed to fostering supportive environments wherein racial and cultural barriers can be overcome and human equality can be realized.
Devoted to bringing the races together in projects that seek to bridge racial division.
AND THANK YOU POSTER KHIRAD FOR THESE:
Muslim Public Affairs Council
American Islamic Congress
The Sikh Coalition
Hindu American Foundation