Step 1 ...
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.
A hate group is coming to our town. What should we do?"
"I am very alarmed at hate crimes...What can I, as one person, do to help?"
"I find myself wanting to act, to show support for the victims, to demonstrate my anger and sorrow... But I don't know what to do or how to begin."
If you've opened this guide, you probably want to "do something" about hate. You are not alone. Questions like these arrive daily at the Southern Poverty Law Center. When a hate crime occurs or a hate group rallies, good people often feel helpless. We encourage you to act, for the following reasons:
Hate is an open attack on tolerance and decency. It must be countered with acts of goodness. Sitting home with your virtue does no good. In the face of hate, silence is deadly. Apathy will be interpreted as acceptance - by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. If left unchallenged, hate persists and grows.
Hate is an attack on a community's health. Hate tears society along racial, ethnic, gender and religious lines. The U.S. Department of Justice warns that hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger larger community conflict, civil disturbances and even riots. For all their "patriotic" rhetoric, hate groups and their freelance imitators are really trying to divide us; their views are fundamentally anti-democratic. True patriots fight hate.
Hate escalates. Take seriously the smallest hint of hate — even what appears to be simple name-calling. The Department of Justice again has a warning: Slurs often escalate to harassment, harassment to threats and threats to physical violence. Don't wait to fight hate.
One Phone Call
When a cross was burned in the yard of a single mother of Portuguese descent in Rushville, Mo., one person's actions set in motion a community uprising against hatred.
"I have been asked many times since that night why I got involved," Christine Iverson said. "The answer is simple. I was so upset after reading the article that I had to do something. So I got up and made a phone call. Everything else came from that moment of decision."
Iverson, a disaster response expert and minister for Lutheran Social Services, called a friend involved in the church's anti-racism program. Then she called the victim. Then she called a ministerial alliance and asked to be put on the agenda. She went to the meeting with four proposals: a letter to the editor, a prayer meeting, flier distribution and a candlelight vigil. The alliance recommended all four, and Iverson was put in charge.
The result was a gathering of 300 people, a speech by the mayor, news accounts of the rally, and the formation of a unity committee within the church alliance. More than 150 people marched for the first time in a Martin Luther King Day parade, and an essay contest was created on the theme "We Have a Dream."
"There is still a lot of work to be done," Iverson said, "but we are beginning to do the work together."
If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an Amen?