Beaufort Today -

After Charlottesville: What we can do now

Most everyone was outraged by what happened in Charlottesville, Va., this month. It is only human to react by asking, “What can I do?”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been successfully fighting neo-Nazi and white supremacist organizations since 1971. If you don’t know about them and their courageous founder Morris Dees, you should.

Go to www.SPLCenter.org to learn about hate groups in the country and South Carolina and what you can do. Make a donation, too.

Morris has been an inspiration and personal hero of mine for more than 40 years. There is no human being alive in America who has risked their life longer and more directly in the fight “to ensure that the promise of the civil rights movement becomes a reality for all.”

We first met and worked together on Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign and later he helped get published my father’s book “Beyond the Burning Bus” about his experience in civil rights in Alabama in the 1960s.

Right after Charlottesville, the SPLC published “10 Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide” and bought full-page ads in many major newspapers to get people involved.

A summary is below. On their website, there is more detailed information and some specific things you and your community can do.

• Act: Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and — worse — the victims. Community members must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.

• Join forces: Reach out to allies from churches, schools, clubs and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition. Include children, police and the media. Gather ideas from everyone and get everyone involved.

• Support the victims: Hate crime victims are especially vulnerable. If you’re a victim, report every incident — in detail — and ask for help. If you learn about a hate crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.

• Speak up: Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth. Do not debate hate group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.

• Educate yourself: An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.

• Create an alternative: Do not attend a hate rally. Find another outlet for anger and frustration and for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.

• Pressure leaders: Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies. But some must overcome reluctance — and others, their own biases — before they’re able to take a stand.

• Stay engaged: Promote acceptance and address bias before another hate crime can occur. Expand your comfort zone by reaching out to people outside your own groups.

• Teach acceptance: Bias is learned early, often at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance. Host a diversity and inclusion day on campus. Reach out to young people who may be susceptible to hate group propaganda and prejudice.

• Dig deeper: Look inside yourself for biases and stereotypes. Commit to disrupting hate and intolerance at home, at school, in the workplace and in faith communities.

There is nothing here that we all can’t do.

Nuclear meltdown update

Two weeks ago, I called on members of the Legislature to donate all contributions from SCANA, Santee Cooper and the electric co-op to a charity, and disclose all retainers, consulting fees or any other money they or their immediate family received from these companies.

I’m happy to report some progress. Democratic Rep. Russel Ott announced he was going to return his campaign contributions from SCANA and Republican Rep. Bill Hixon said he returned all of his donations from SCANA and S.C. Electric Co-op.

Both men are on the new House committee appointed to investigate the nuclear scandal. Other members of the committee (and the whole Legislature) should follow their lead. Thank you, gentlemen.

This is a great first step. Unfortunately, no other legislators have come forward to say they will return or donate their campaign contributions. Further, we know of no legislator who has disclosed any other payments they have received from the utilities.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We deserve better.

Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Reach him at phil@philnoble.com.

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