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.
Goodness has a First Amendment right, too. We urge you to denounce hate groups and hate crimes and to spread the truth about hate's threat to a pluralistic society. An informed and unified community is the best defense against hate.
You can spread tolerance through church bulletins, door-to-door fliers, websites, local cable TV bulletin boards, letters to the editor and print advertisements. Hate shrivels under strong light. Beneath their neo-Nazi exteriors, hate purveyors are cowards, surprisingly subject to public pressure and ostracism.
• When the 20-year-old "national leader" of the Aryan Nations in Canada was exposed by the Prince George Citizen, he resigned and closed his website. "I don't want to have this plastered all over the place," he said.
• Floyd Cochran, a former recruiter for the Aryan Nations, recalls the night he and founder Richard Butler traveled to tiny Sandpoint, Idaho, to intimidate a human relations meeting. When they found 300 people, they were intimidated themselves. "I didn't go back to Sandpoint because of the turnout," Cochran said.
A Tale of Two Towns
When the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Sharpsburg, Md., just nine Klan supporters showed up, "marching" two blocks, behind a police barrier, then leaving on the same rented Trailways bus they drove in on.
Meanwhile, many others — more than 30 times the number of Klansmen marching up Hall Street — spoke up in much louder and more effective ways.
About 40 area groups and businesses planned several alternative events in Sharpsburg and neighboring Keedysville — all this from a combined population of fewer than 1,400 people.
About 60 people attended a morning interfaith service. More than 100 turned out for an outdoor concert that afternoon, near Sharpsburg. More than 40 young people, ages 10 to 20, gathered at a local pizzeria. And more than 100 others attended a celebration of diversity in Keedysville.
"The Klan has a First Amendment right to free speech, but I also have the right to say that's not what I believe in, that's not what my community stands for," said Amanda Reed of Sharpsburg, who helped organize the alternative events.
Others also spoke out against the Klan. A local Waffle House used its letter-board sign to send a message: "Teach love not war." A red Ford Explorer carried another sign: "Hate is not welcome here." And everywhere people wore specially made T-shirts that said, "We believe in love, not hate in Washington County."
The gatherings earned local and regional press coverage that provided a balance to the hate message of the Klan.
While the single day was a success, many residents said long-term change — change that would never allow the Klan to feel welcome in either town again — is the ultimate goal.
As organizer Jerry Randell, explained: "If things keep happening after this day, that's how we'll know we're successful."
If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an Amen?