The Southern Poverty Law Center
HATE IN AMERICA is a dreadful, daily constant. The dragging death of a black man in Jasper, Texas; the crucifixion of a gay man in Laramie, Wyo.; and the stabbing death of a Latino immigrant in Long Island, N.Y., are not “isolated incidents.” They are eruptions of a nation’s intolerance.
Bias is a human condition, and American history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or other differences. The 20th century saw major progress in outlawing discrimination, and most Americans today support integrated schools and neighborhoods. But stereotypes and unequal treatment persist, an atmosphere often exploited by hate groups.
When bias motivates an unlawful act, it is considered a hate crime. Race and religion inspire most hate crimes, but hate today wears many faces. Bias incidents (eruptions of hate where no crime is committed) also tear communities apart — and threaten to escalate into actual crimes.
In recent years, the FBI has reported between 7,000 and 8,000 hate crime incidents per year in the United States. But law enforcement officials acknowledge that hate crimes — similar to rape and family violence crimes — go under-reported, with many victims reluctant to go to the police. In addition, some police agencies are not fully trained to recognize or investigate hate crimes, and many simply do not collect or report hate crime data. A definitive study by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005 estimated there are about 191,000 hate crime incidents per year.
The good news is … All over the country people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it — often in greater numbers and with stronger voices.
This guide sets out 10 principles for fighting hate, along with a collection of inspiring stories of people who worked to push hate out of their communities.
Whether you need a crash course to deal with an upcoming white-power rally, a primer on the media or a long-range plan to promote tolerance in your community, you will find practical advice, timely examples and helpful resources in this guide. The steps outlined here have been tested in scores of communities across the nation by a wide range of human rights, faith and civic organizations.
Our experience shows that one person, acting from conscience and love, is able to neutralize bigotry. Imagine, then, what an entire community, working together, might do.
1 ACT Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance — by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. Decent people must take action; if we don’t, hate persists. page 6
2 UNITE Call a friend or co-worker. Organize allies from churches, schools, clubs and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition. Include children, police and the media. Gather ideas from everyone, and get everyone involved. page 8
3 SUPPORT THE VICTIMS Hate-crime victims are especially vulnerable, fearful and alone. If you’re a victim, report every incident — in detail — and ask for help. If you learn about a hate-crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection. page 10
4 DO YOUR HOMEWORK An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident. page 12
5 CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE Do not attend a hate rally. Find another outlet for anger and frustration and for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate. page 14
6 SPEAK UP Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth. Do not debate hate-group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity. page 16
7 LOBBY LEADERS Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies in the fight against hate. But some must overcome reluctance — and others, their own biases — before they’re able to take a stand. page 18
8 LOOK LONG RANGE Promote tolerance and address bias before another hate crime can occur. Expand your community’s comfort zones so you can learn and live together. page 20
9 TEACH TOLERANCE Bias is learned early, usually at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance. Sponsor an “I Have a Dream” contest. Reach out to young people who may be susceptible to hate-group propaganda and prejudice. page 22
10 DIG DEEPER Look inside yourself for prejudices and stereotypes. Build your own cultural competency, then keep working to expose discrimination wherever it happens — in housing, employment, education and more. page 24