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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 27, 2002 - Issue 66


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10 Ways to Fight Hate

In the next issues of Canku Ota, we are going to share ideas with you about learning and teaching tolerance. Perhaps this will inspire you to come up with your own ideas to share.

Somewhere in America...

Every hour ...
someone commits a hate crime.

Every day ...
at least eight blacks, three whites, three gays, three Jews and one Native American become hate crime victims.

Every week ...
a cross is burned.

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. Spread on the Internet and accessible by personal computers, hate clearly knows no geographic bounds.

The good news is ...
All over the country people are fighting hate. Standing up to hate mongers. Promoting tolerance and inclusion. More often than not, when hate flares up, good erupts, too.

These guides set out 10 principles for fighting hate along with a collection of inspiring stories of people who acted, often alone at first, to push hate out of their communities. Our experience shows that one person, acting from conscience and love, can neutralize bigotry. A group of people can create a moral barrier to hate.

Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance — by the haters, the public and, worse, the victim. Decency must be exercised, too. If it isn't, hate invariably persists.

"The Klan is coming to our town. What should we do?"

"I am very alarmed at hate crimes. What can I as Joe Citizen do to help?"

When a hate crime occurs or a hate group rallies, good people often feel helpless. We encourage you to act.


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 haters, the public and, worse, the victim. If not answered, hate can persist and grow.

Hate is an attack on a community's health.
It tears society along ethnic, gender and religious lines, and ignites emotions that need to be channeled. For all their "patriotic" rhetoric, hate groups and their freelance imitators are really trying to divide us. Their views are fundamentally anti-democratic. Your actions can support individual rights. Think of fighting hate as civil defense.

Hate events are rarely "isolated."
They often are a symptom of tension in the community. Take seriously even the smallest hint of hate — even name-calling. Those who are targeted do.

What can you do?

  • Pick up the phone. Call friends and colleagues. Host a small meeting. Stand up in church. Suggest some action.
  • Sign a petition. Attend a vigil. Lead a prayer.
  • Pick up a paint brush to cover graffiti.
  • Use the skills and means you have.

A San Diego musician wrote a song about the death of Matthew Shepard, the gay student in Laramie, Wyoming, and sold CDs to raise money for anti-hate groups. A Montana T-shirt shop printed up a shirt with a tolerance message. In Idaho, a plant manager bused employees to a rally denouncing white supremacists.

When a cross was burned in the yard of a single mother of Portuguese descent in Rushville, Missouri, one person picked up the phone and called a friend. Then she called the victim. Then she called a ministerial alliance and asked to be put on the agenda. The upshot 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.

If I had a hammer
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to pick up a hammer. Painting over graffiti, replacing broken windows or building something together — sharing sweat equity — creates neighbors out of strangers and provides a tangible outlet that outlasts the emotion of the hate event. Like mini-monuments to tolerance, such projects become visible counterforces, pushing back against hate. They can spawn other projects and ongoing dialogue about divisive issues.

Pete Seeger, who, with Lee Hayes, wrote the song "If I Had a Hammer," says: "Hammers, shovels, picks, trowels, brushes, drills, wrenches - all are good tools. Let's all take a hammer... Let's find a way to build."

If the people of your town were armed with hammers, what would they build?

  • One woman, Ammie Murray of Dixiana, South Carolina, is credited with rebuilding the tiny black-congregation St. John Baptist Church not once but twice after racist vandals destroyed it in 1985 and burned it to the ground in 1995. Discouraged and exhausted after the second incident and with continuous personal threats to her safety, the 65-year-old white woman nonetheless fired up a 1,000-person, multiracial work force that presented the congregation with a new church in November 1998.
  • A sixth-grade class in Morgantown, West Virginia, painted over skinhead graffiti on the outside wall of a convenience store. Their teacher had used the graffiti to discuss hatred and violence. After watching "Not In Our Town," a video of how Billings, Montana, fought hate, the children concluded that, left to stand, the graffiti would convey community apathy. They became role models within Morgantown, with press coverage and congratulations from the state Attorney General.
  • In the searing aftermath of the murder of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas, local black citizens reminded Jasper that the town swimming pool had been filled with dirt in the 1970s to prevent black children from integrating it. A mayor's task force proposed a new public pool.
  • Reverberations from the Rodney King beating prompted the Los Angeles human relations commission to form neighborhood committees to pick building projects that would improve their multicultural neighborhoods. Years after the King incident, neighbors are designing and building flowerbeds, new stoplights and community centers.
  • When a seven-foot cross was burned on the lawn of a young black couple in Kansas City, Kansas, it shocked neighbors. "They've just attacked the neighborhood," said a spokeswoman for the Rosedale Development Association. People from all over the city swarmed onto the property, repainting, replacing screens, mowing the yard, planting flowers. The victim hoped aloud that the perpetrator was watching, "so they can see that what they did backfired on them."

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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