WestSouthwest: Why the Hate Now, How to Respond

Nov 17, 2017

Lecia Brooks, outreach director of the historic Southern Poverty Law Center, best-known for successfully suing a KKK group, speaks in Kalamazoo on Nov. 17.
Credit Courtesy photo | Southern Poverty Law Center

If it seems like hate is increasing, it is. So says the Southern Poverty Law Center that has been monitoring domestic hate for nearly half a century.

Within 10 days of November's presidential election, about 850 incidences of hate and racial intimidation were reported to the center, says outreach director Lecia Brooks.

It rose to over 1,800 by March of this year. Brooks headlines the Kalamazoo Summit on Racism on Nov. 17 in Kalamazoo.


In an advance interview that aired today on WMUK's WestSouthwest news and public affairs show, Brooks discusses reasons for the spike in bias and ways to combat it.

Asked her thoughts on people acting as allies for marginalized groups and denouncing online hate when they see it, she says that is important to do to avoid "normalizing" bigotry in America.

Lecia Brooks, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, mingles after her speech on hate and intolerance on Aug. 29 at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.
Credit David Zalaznik via Southern Poverty Law Center

But she says the center doesn't advocate posting the employers, addresses and other very personal details of white supremacists. She says naming them is sufficient, especially if they are engaging in violence, as that could help police identify them. (Click here for a state-by-state map of hate groups.)

Among the biggest perpetrators of hate lately has been students, Brooks says. Specifically, of the about 850 bias incidents reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center within the first 10 days after the election, 183 were in K-12 schools and 140 at colleges. 

Concerned, she says, the center surveyed schoolteachers to learn more. The first survey spoke with 5,000 educators during the presidential campaign, and a second, post-election one, with 10,000 teachers.

Brooks says the center uncovered anxiety among some teachers, who were "at a loss" as to how to handle students engaging in "anti-immigrant and Muslim rhetoric," even drawing in African-Americans with taunts like: "You're going back to Africa."

The Southern Poverty Law Center recommends students not attend the rallies or speaking engagements of white nationalists

Some teachers started shying away from doing lessons on the presidential election, which they used to look forward to, Brooks says. She says a few feared mere discussion of the election could upset parents who voted for President Trump.

At the university level, the Southern Poverty Law Center has noticed that white supremacist groups are now openly recruiting for members on campuses, Brooks says.

She says the center has since issued a guide to help K-12 teachers cope with student bigotry. It also compiled one to assist college students whose campuses have been targeted by white supremacists for "fly-ins."

Instead, students should 'strongly protest' with an alternate event, says the Southern Poverty Law Center

Brooks says the Southern Poverty Law Center recommends students not attend the rallies or speaking engagements of white nationalists. 

She explains that white supremacist groups depend on student protesters to get media attention and "create a spectacle," so they can "present themselves as the aggrieved party" being denied their free speech rights.

Instead, students should "strongly protest" with an alternate event, preferably at another location, and invite their classmates and the press to it, she adds.

According to a press release, Brooks will discuss "Hate Groups in Michigan" during her keynote address at the Kalamazoo Summit on Racism. It is scheduled for Nov. 17 at the Lawrence Education Center, at Borgess Medical Center.

Registrations are being taken now through Nov. 10. There's a fee. For more details, visit sharekazoo.org.

The Society for History and Racial Equity is putting on the Kalamazoo Summit on Racism with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and Borgess, along with about seven other partners.