Posted by Heba Mohammad on September 07, 2017 in Blog

If you are the victim of a hate crime, you are more likely to remain silent than to report it to law enforcement authorities. That is a highlight of the most recent Department of Justice Hate Crime Victimization Report, and the context in which the Michigan Response to Hate Conference occurred last week. Marking its tenth year, the conference, orchestrated by the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes (MIAAHC), has drawn invested community partners annually to share strategies for preventing hate crimes, supporting victims, and encouraging reporting of hate crimes. On September 6th, I joined representatives of community organizations, law enforcement, governmental agencies, and state and local leaders to learn about the work happening in Michigan and around the country to combat hate.

Throughout the day, we heard from experts who have spent years working in the realm of hate crimes to understand the motivations behind them and how to best respond to them. Randy Blazak from the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes kicked off the day by speaking to Portland’s response to the recent hate motivated double murder. In a stunning example of a community uniting against hate, police, media personnel, community groups, and individuals each took on a role in aiding the healing process. The multi-pronged approach, which addressed both short and long term needs, was only possible thanks to the decades long ground-laying work of the Oregon Coalition. Similarly, a workshop presentation by Assistant U.S. Attorney of Florida’s Middle District Yohance Pettis demonstrated how proactive collaborations between governmental officials and local partners can set a community up to successfully identify hate, respond to it, and establish a safe climate for everyone to thrive in. These examples are case studies in a larger trend of successful efforts nationwide to resist hate, and they share a common thread of intentional cross-community collaboration. 

Although the predominant hate crimes narrative has been one of alarm recently---an increased rate of hate crimes, reluctance to report, emboldened perpetrators---these cases offer hope that Americans refuse to stand for hate. It is this hope on which AAI’s Report Hate Project is based. By working with allied community partners across the nation to understand local needs and concerns, AAI is identifying barriers to reporting hate crimes and convening working groups to develop tailored strategies for removing those barriers. These working groups are comprised of community partners and local elected and/or law enforcement officials, and, as the Oregon Coalition and the U.S. Attorney’s Florida working group prove, they work. 

The reality of working to combat hate is there are no guaranteed answers or tactics. What is guaranteed is that a group of passionate people coming together to respond to hate will make a difference, and this was apparent by the end of the conference. As these efforts continue nationwide, I hope you’ll join AAI and our allies in standing up to hate. 

Get involved in the Report Hate Project by contacting Heba Mohammad at hmohammad@aaiusa.org.