By Howard T. Spence
During the past several months we have seen, all across our nation, a startling increase in the showing of hatred and insensitivity towards various minority groups here in the United States, and also even here locally in the mid-Michigan area. A milestone in the advance of this hatred and related acts of bullying and violence occurred during the demonstrations and protest which occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, during late August of this year.
While the acts of hatred and violence and resurgence of alt-right, neo-Nazi, and white supremacy doctrines have been significantly escalating recently, one encouraging sign is the fact that all across our country, and particularly here in mid-Michigan, normal, everyday citizens and residents are fighting back - demanding the eradication of hatred and violence in our communities.
One of the ways that our local residents are fighting back is with reaffirmations of basic principles of equality, equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion in our communities.
Very shortly after the Charlottesville incidents occurred, the Eaton County Board of commissioners adopted a resolution and proclamation that Eaton County, Michigan is a “no hate zone, a community that supports diversity, inclusion, and tolerance.” More recently Michigan State Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr. introduced a resolution in the Michigan State Senate that also reaffirmed these basic principles of acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion for the whole State of Michigan.
People of all racial and ethnic backgrounds in the Greater Lansing area are also individually speaking out in support of our communities being communities guided by love, diversity, inclusion and tolerance. Hundreds of people have participated in rallies in our community voicing support for these basic American principles. Hundreds more have participated in symposiums, community workshops, and community activism meetings directed towards rallying Americans around the fact that although diverse, America is one people, United and stronger together.
Among the events which have occurred recently was a major rally at the Michigan state Capitol by local residents, including some elected officials, rallying to decry racism, neo-Nazi-ism, and alt-right hatred directed toward members of our community – hatred designed to turn Americans against other Americans.
This turn towards increased violence and lack of tolerance in our communities underlines a growing divisive trend that has been building in America for quite some time, but which seems to have accelerated in recent months since the last presidential election. Just this past week a horrible act of violence and hatred showed up in the form of “domestic terrorism” in Las Vegas when one man – whose heart was obviously filled with hatred – used an automatic weapon to mow down hundreds of Americans who had gathered there at an outdoor musical event where people had gone to enjoy their lives and take a moment to hopefully get some reprieve from the stresses and anger which they encountered every day in their lives in our country during this time of anger, divisiveness, and hatred. The aftermath of that sniper’s murderous reign of terror in Las Vegas was approximately 60 Americans dead in what is characterized as one of the deadliest acts of terrorism in our country in modern times. Many others who were not killed have been wounded, and some remain in serious jeopardy of losing their lives even now.
On September 6, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes co-sponsored the 10th Annual MI Response to Hate Conference at the Michigan State University Kellogg Center which helped direct people toward strategies to combat hatred and divisive actions within our community. The keynote speaker at that symposium was Catherine E. Lhamon, Chairperson of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. That MDCR conference documented and discussed the state of “hate” in America.
On September 12, a large group of Lansing area residents gathered at the Lansing Center for a conference hosted by Michigan Truth Racial Healing and Transformation of Lansing to discuss and learn about ways to supplant hatred and violence in our community with Love and tolerance. Numerous other workshops and gatherings continue to be occurring on almost a weekly basis as local Lansing area residents are beginning to come together to publicly state that enough is enough – we need to work together to make our communities safe, welcoming, diverse, and inclusive.
The future of our communities and our country depends on the members of our communities joining together to fight back against hatred, racism, intolerance, and violence. I hope you join with your neighbors too to fight to stop the violence and hatred that threatens to tear us apart.
This was printed in the October 15 - October 28, 2017 edition.