Ten Points to Remember
Center for Democratic Renewal
Document the problem and stay informed. Your first step should be
to conduct thorough research about hate group activity and bigoted
violence in your community. Develop a chronology of incidents drawing
on newspaper accounts, victim reports, and other sources. Stay informed
about developments by clipping your local newspaper, subscribing
to other publications, and networking with other individuals and
Speak out and create a moral barrier to hate activity. Communities
that ignore the problem of hate group activity and bigoted violence
can sometimes create the impression that they don't care. This silence
is often interpreted by hate groups as an invitation to step up their
activities. Through press conferences, rallies, community meetings,
and public hearings, you can create a climate of public opinion that
condemns racism and bigotry right from the start.
Match the solution to the problem. Whatever strategy you use to
respond should be tailored to the specific situation you are dealing
with; don't rely on rigid, formula-type solutions.
Build coalitions. Hate violence and bigotry against one targeted
group helps to legitimize activities against other groups. If you
involve a wide spectrum of people representing diverse constituencies,
you will have a better chance of achieving a unified, effective response.
Assist victims. Providing support and aid to hate violence victims
is central to any response strategy. Don't get so busy organizing
press conferences and issuing proclamations that you forget to make
a housecall and express your personal support.
Work with constituencies targeted for recruitment. People who join
hate groups usually do so out of frustration, fear, and anger; they
might even be your neighbors next door. By offering meaningful social,
economic, spiritual, and political alternatives you can discourage
participation in hate groups by the very people most vulnerable to
Target your own community as well as the hate group. Organizations
like the Ku Klux Klan don't create social conflict out of thin air;
they have to feed off existing community tensions in order to exist.
The enemy of community harmony is not always the hate group itself,
but the existing bigotry and division the group can exploit. For
these and other reasons it is also essential to conduct anti-bigotry
education programs on an ongoing basis, after the hate group
has left your community.
Encourage peer-based responses among youth. Young people respond
best to leadership that comes from within their peer group. While
adults can provide valuable resources and insight, it is essential
that youth groups develop and cultivate their own leaders and implement
programs of their own design to combat bigotry.
Remember that hate groups are not a fringe phenomenon and their
followers don't always wear white sheets. Although the number of
active white supremacists and neo-Nazis probably totals no more than
25,000 in the United States, as many as 500,000 Americans read their
literature. This movement is complex and made up of numerous sometimes
competing and sometimes cooperating organizations. Hate groups impact
the mainstream of society in a variety of ways, including: running
candidates for public office; publishing sophisticated propaganda;
buying radio time and media outlets; distributing cable television
programs; manipulating the media; and building alliances with more
respectable conservative groups, including some fundamentalist and
evangelical Christian organizations.
Broaden your agenda. The problem is more than criminal. Hate activity
is a political and social problem requiring a range of responses
beyond those initiated by police. Citizen advocacy groups, religious
agencies, and others should develop a public policy agenda that addresses
a wide range of issues, including appropriate legislation, mandatory
school curricula, expanded victim services, etc.
The Center for Democratic Renewal in Atlanta, Georgia, is a national
organization assisting community-based groups fighting prejudice and
hate crimes. This article is drawn from the 1992 CDR handbook When
Hate Groups Come to Town. © 1995, Center for Democratic Renewal.
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