Posted by Guest on October 02, 2017 in Blog

Nadia_Lawyers_Committee_3.jpegby Sarah Seniuk

Founded in 1963 by direction of President John F. Kennedy, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law fights to ensure the equal protection of and justice under the law, particularly for marginalized and under-protected groups. Following the election of President Trump and the ensuing rise of hate crimes across the country, the Lawyers Committee expanded their work to target hate crimes, both responding to reports of hate and attempting to prevent the crimes and incidents entirely. The new Stop Hate initiative seeks to help create a world without hate by partnering with community groups and services in every state.

AAI is one of those partners, with our own #ReportHate project to bring the harms of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry to light. AAI interns met with Nadia Aziz, the current Program Manager for Stop Hate and a former Director of Government Relations for AAI, and Director Becky Monroe to learn more about the work. Despite diverse educational backgrounds and future professional goals, we were most interested in how Stop Hate operates on the ground. We explored the challenges of getting disparate groups to the table in communities where distrust is deeply rooted, the importance of meeting people where they are, and how we must coalition build within and between groups and communities if we want to be successful. Let’s breakdown a few of these issues:

Coming to the Table

Many minority communities have strained or complicated relationships with the law enforcement officials who are meant to serve and protect them. For Arab Americans this has meant a fear of surveillance or detention. For those communities which have worked diligently to build relationships of trust, there’s always a fear for its fragility. Where possible, Stop Hate tries to partner with law enforcement, to rebuild mutually beneficial trusting community relationships, reminding both average citizens and police officers that the safety of all is dependent upon care and cooperation.

Meeting People Where they Are

Programing must be culturally and community specific, while hate crimes near universally affect minority and marginalized groups, the solutions themselves are not ‘one size fits all’. For some communities, sitting down with law enforcement isn’t feasible, the pain of loss and distrust is too strong to overcome. Instead, there may need to be efforts to pursue models of restorative justice. When trauma occurs, healing and care is needed, though for many communities seeking mental health care is stigmatized. Organizers can respond by offering other opportunities which heal, like music, art and recreation.

Coalition Building

It’s a term which has regained popularity in activist circles, and speaks to the need of marginalized groups to work together in pursuit of a common goal. For Stop Hate this has meant helping bring together groups which have focused on the particular ways their communities have been oppressed to share resources, connections and support. An issue as big as hate crimes and incidents requires the coordination of all concerned parties.

Explore the work of the Lawyer’s Committee and the Stop Hate Project here, follow and participate in the hashtags #ReportHate, #StopHate, and #EndHate and explore how your community is pushing back against hate crimes and incidents.

Sarah Seniuk is a 2017 fall intern at the Arab American Institute.