Black Caucus Panel Focuses on Hate in the Age of Trump

CBC Conference Panel-- License to Hate: How to Combat Hate in the Age of Trump”

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What is the definition of hate?

“Hate equals fear plus ignorance,” said noted New York-based author Kevin Powell at the 47th Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference on Sept. 22.

Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, took the definition a step further, citing a key statistic.

“African-Americans make up 60 percent of all the victims in the hate crimes report,” Shelton said. “And that’s incomplete because there are jurisdictions that don’t keep records of hate crimes.”

Powell, whose work focuses on racial, cultural, and gender issues, and Shelton appeared on a panel discussion entitled “License to Hate: How to Combat Hate in the Age of Trump.”

The Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV, the great-great-great-great-nephew of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, made national headlines when he said statues of his ancestor should be taken down. At the MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 27, Lee introduced the mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed during the demonstrations over a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Va., and his comments turned political.

“We have made my ancestor an idol of White supremacy, racism and hate,” he said at the time. “As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.”

Lee’s MTV appearance spawned pushback from his small North Carolina church. Lee ultimately resigned, saying in a statement, “A faction of church members were concerned about my speech and that I lifted up the Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work.”

Lee, 25, is a recent graduate of the Duke University Divinity School.

Appearing on the Congressional Black Caucus panel, Lee spoke of what he called a “liberal quietness” in the White Christian church community. He said he surely isn’t the only White liberal in the religious Christian community, even in the South.

“There are more White liberal views out there in the church,” Lee said, “but they just aren’t speaking up. They don’t because they are scared of being kicked out of the country club. But at some point, you have to forget about the country club and do what’s right. And Christian.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala.-based civil rights organization that studies hate and bias in the U.S., there are 917 hate groups nationwide. There were 1,372 reported bias incidents between the day after the presidential election and Feb. 7. The figures were listed on charts disseminated to the audience before the start of the panel discussion.

Since President Donald Trump entered the Republican primary season in early 2016 and his fiery racial rhetoric went full-bore, hate crimes have increased by 62 percent in Washington D.C., 50 percent in Philadelphia, 24 percent in New York City, 20 percent in Chicago, and 15 percent in Los Angeles, just to name a few cities, Rush said.   

“We have seen an uptick in hate crimes against people of color, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, the gay community, quite frankly,” said Sakira Cook, senior counsel for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “White supremacy has been perpetuated by some members of Congress.”    

Panel moderator Eugene Scott, political writer for The Washington Post and frequent guest on CNN and MSNBC, offered a quick analysis on how White supremacy has evolved the past 400-plus years.    

“It manifests itself differently now mainly because of digital technology,” Scott submitted. “And now you hear about the ‘alt-right.’ A CNN contributor once said the ‘alt-right’ is nothing but White supremacy in khakis.”    

When it comes to labels, Shelton said the segregation of the era of Jim Crow has grown up. 

“It’s alive and well now,” Shelton surmised. “Except now, it’s James Crow, Esquire.”      

Scott asked the panelists if there were methods available to combat the rise of hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, the groups we saw at the Charlottesville catastrophe.     

“We need to get the credit-card companies to stop giving them credit,” Cook advised. “And if you see a hate crime, document it on the web site, communitiesagainsthate.org.”     

The religious community could take a page from the progressive Judson Memorial Church in New York City, Powell suggested. Judson holds special church services around the cause/plight of Native Americans.

“If we don’t work together,” Powell said, “then we are doomed.”