Complexities of Hate
When we went to the City Club on Friday, May 25, we encountered Ms. Desiree Caliguire-Maier, District-Wide Coordinator of Business and Community Partnerships and Enrichment Programs for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. She was escorting several students (actually enough to fill a luncheon table) from Cleveland Heights High School, introduced us to the students, and went on to say some very glowing things about Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC as well as Ms. Wong herself.
When it was time to eat lunch, we shared a table with Mr. Randell McShepard, Vice President of Public Affairs with RPM International, Inc., who is also a longtime friend of Ms. Wong. Later we spoke to an elderly gentleman who said the topic of immigration was especially dear to him since he had to flee Germany after the Nazis came to power.
The forum for the day was a discussion moderated by Ms. Darrielle Snipes, Reporter/Producer for Ideastream. It dealt with the "Complexities of Hate" and featured Mr. Ryan Lenz, Senior Investigative Reporter for the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center and Mr. Antony McAleer, a former neo-Nazi and co-founder of Life After Hate which, as explained by City Club CEO Mr. Dan Moulthrop, "works with individuals looking to leave a life of hate and violence and assists organizations grappling with the causes of intolerance and racism."
During his introduction, Mr. Moulthrop pointed out that "according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, since 2014 the number of hate groups has increased 20 percent. Currently there are hate groups operating in 50 states—954 in total. It's a troubling statistic considering the Census Bureau predicts the United States will become a minority-majority nation by 2044."
To be sure, hate groups are becoming increasingly prominent in other parts of the world such as Canada and Europe, but in the United States, possible reasons for the rise might be that many people felt threatened by the presidency and policies of Barack Obama—a person of color—and recent inflammatory rhetoric by certain political leaders seemed to both legitimize and reinforce these fears and increase the already apparent resentment.
The ensuing discussion went on to address such matters as how social media and technology related to the Internet have enabled the hate groups to attract and recruit new members at a rapid pace, and how insecure, troubled, and lonely people (particularly young white men) are especially vulnerable for targeting because by joining an extremist group an alienated person believes he/she is getting the understanding and acceptance that he/she was unable to find before.
Likewise, it is comforting for confused people to be told that their failures are not their fault but are instead caused by the actions/presence of the "other" and/or unfair governmental policies that favor the "other," therefore putting them at perilous economic if not personal risk.
Mr. McAleer is very familiar with this scenario because he is a former organizer of the White Aryan resistance and served as a skinhead recruiter as well as the manager of "Odin's Law," a racist rock band. He poignantly described how the birth of his children motivated him to change his ways and how certain relationships helped him along the way.
Because of his own experience and from what he has learned, Mr. McAleer urged all of us to view extremists as not evil but as disturbed people. Therefore, we should strive to show them compassion because redemption is indeed possible. Along these lines, he shared with us a case that he personally witnessed in which a man who was dangerously Islamophobic was helped to conquer his fear by a dialogue with an understanding Imam.
Other methods of challenging hatred that have proved to be successful are dignified, peaceful protests and counter-protests against acts of violence and efforts to reach children during their formative years.
Concerning the necessity for the latter, Mr. Lenz mentioned an instance in Texas wherein Hispanic 6th graders went to school one day to find that their classmates had created a Trumpian wall made out of cardboard boxes to keep them out. We talked with Mr. Lenz for a moment, and he agreed with us that throughout history immigration has inspired many such hateful actions.
Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC