The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a recent explosive rise in the number of hate groups, driven — in part — by a presidential campaign that adopted extremist ideas. They report 917 hate groups in the United States. (New York state has 47 of them ... seven exist within a 100-mile radius of Auburn!)

Bias is a human condition, and American history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or other characteristics.

Although we’ve made a lot of progress, stereotyping and unequal treatment persist!

According to the FBI, blacks are by far the most frequent victims of hate crimes, numbering 37.5 percent of all victims. Since 2015, Latinos, Jews, Muslims and transgender women are among the groups that have shown an increase in being victimized.

The U.S. Department of Justice warns that “hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger community conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots. For all their 'patriotic' rhetoric, hate groups and their imitators are really trying to divide us; their views are fundamentally anti-democratic.

“A hate crime must meet two criteria: A crime must happen, such as physical assault, intimidation, arson, or vandalism; and the crime must be motivated, in whole or in part, by bias.

"Members of hate groups typically share these extremist views: (1) They want to limit the rights of certain groups they view as inferior; (2) They want to divide society along racial, ethnic or religious lines; and (3) They demonize the groups they hate with false propaganda and often outlandish conspiracy theories.”

A website worth checking out for ways to push back against hate and bigotry: https://www.splcenter.org/20170814/ten-ways-fight-hate-community-response-guide.

Pushing back means speaking up when we hear racial slurs and giving support to those who are victimized by hate crime.

As a member (myself) of the clergy, I have found that most clergy are sometimes reluctant to preach on the topic of "bias and prejudice" ... fearing the loss of members of their own congregation who have a bias toward those who practice another religion. (Too many people have forgotten the fact that the Bill of Rights guarantees all of us freedom of religion.)

It might be worth the reader's time to look inside themselves for any hidden biases. You can test yourself on this by going to tolerance.org/hiddenbias.

The Rev. Joyce Hackett Smith-Moore

Auburn

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