I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around an experience from this weekend. A little town nearby (within biking distance, which is how I know about it) was "treated" to an anti-immigrant rally led by an all-female white supremacist group. There were only 4 of them -people, not groups- so it doesn't seem as though, at least locally, this phenomenon of women in hate groups is catching on. But why did the very fact of it surprise me?
The whole thing was confusing, actually. To begin with, it was an anti-immigrant rally rather than an anti-immigration rally. Surely I'm not the only one who sees the difference. The first one is anti-specific people; the second one is against a specific policy. I'm not crazy about either version, but the first certainly seems to have an undertone of violence.
Then there were the approximately 100 counter-protesters. What a great opportunity, in the face of a hate group, to be different -to model integrity while standing up for what is right. Or not. Tempers were clearly frayed, even though the groups were well apart from each other. Ad hominem attacks... threats.... and this from the people protesting hate groups. It made me very sad, and also a little worried for the peace movement. (Is there actually a peace movement, anymore?) Those of us of a certain age actually went to trainings about how to protest peacefully. We need to resurrect the training, apparently, or people need to avail themselves of it.
And then there were the four women, representatives of Aryan Anarchist Skins. What would inspire anyone to join a hate group, is certainly a relevant question. But I'm always particularly perplexed when a member of a persecuted group wants to join. And it gets more complicated. An unusual feature of this particular group is that it's gay-friendly. Apparently, white supremacist groups are almost uniformly anti-gay. So now we have two layers of oppression to wade through. Well, maybe we do. The members are certainly women and possibly one or more of them is lesbian. I don't know that just from their stated policy of being gay-friendly, obviously. But it's certainly true that other hate groups are not supporting this particular hate group because they're not quite hateful enough towards gay people. So, these four women are apparently willing to be the only four people on the planet standing for their beliefs. They're willing to be hated by the peace-groups. They're willing to be hated by the hate groups. And all in the service of hating some more. Is anyone else's brain melting?
Certainly they have a Constitutional right to hate all they want and to tell us all about it. But the rest of us have a parallel right, of course. In case anyone locally is worried about someone's potential involvement in a hate group, there are ample materials that help to prevent recruitment of young people into racist groups. The Anti-Defamation League recommends a brochure for young people called, Close the Book on Hate: 101 Ways to Combat Prejudice. It is available through the Anti-Defamation League website and at Barnes and Noble. Tolerance.org also offers practical steps on how to respond to bigoted comments through its 10 Ways to Fight Hate.