Ten Points to Remember

Center for Democratic Renewal

  1. 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 agencies.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 recruitment.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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This article is from:
Eyes Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash

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