If you want to kill bigotry and hatred, lure it out of its dark place and stomp it into the dirt.
That’s what about 100 people in Saratoga Springs did Wednesday night in response to the latest assault of racist filth on our communities.
And that’s the way we all must continue to respond, in greater numbers and with louder voices, whenever the low-lifes of our society try to divide us by hatred.
Stomp them into the dirt.
The Valentine’s Day evening vigil was organized by the Saratoga Peace Alliance in response to several flyers that were placed on cars in the north end of the city inviting people to join the Loyal White Nights, a KKK-like organization of white supremacists and anti-Semites trying to repackage 19th-century racism as a 21st-century revival of American Christianity and purity.
In reality, they promote a message of hatred and discrimination, using the N-word to push the theme that black people will “dampen progress for white society” and encouraging people to discriminate against homosexuals, Jews, mixed-race couples and other minorities.
Last year, people operating under the same group name distributed flyers and magnets in Gloversville and the Montgomery County communities of Northville and Fort Plain. Among their tactics were using images of burning crosses and nooses to urge people to take back their nation. When someone called the phone number on the flyer, they got information about the organization’s “N--- (N-word) of the month award” and a call for “white power.”
One could easily dismiss these tactics as the work of some stupid kids without nefarious intentions just trying to get a rise out of people and provoke some kind of community response.
But whether the threat of action is merely perceived or not, the message they’re sending is real.
And all fair-minded, good-hearted people of all political beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, races and gender orientations need to do more of what Saratoga Springs residents did the other night and make a strong public statement that this kind of bigotry is not acceptable. That this kind of hatred is not supported. That communities will not be divided based on the color of someone’s skin or religion or sexual orientation.
In the past year or so, the nation has seen a general increase in the number of hate-related incidents.
According police data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, hate crimes in major cities jumped by nearly 20 percent last year and increased 5 percent nationally. In New York City, where violent crime has been on the decline for decades, hate crimes jumped 28.4 percent. In Los Angeles, they went up by 13 percent and in Philadelphia by 9 percent. Those hate crimes included several stabbings committed against blacks by people identifying as white supremacists.
We’ve also seen an up-tick in racist activity on college campuses throughout the country. Following the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., campuses saw increases in the display of Confederate flags, nooses depicting lynchings and other racist messages. In just the four months following the 2016 president election, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 330 bias-related incidents on college campuses.
This isn’t a casual threat to be dismissed lightly as the work of precocious teens.
Each demonstration of racism should be met by an overwhelming demonstration of opposition, through peaceful protests and education and displays of community unity, enlightening others and warning them about the dangers of allowing this plague to spread and become normalized and acceptable.
As one marcher said during the Saratoga Springs protest, “The time for silence is gone.”
The more people who speak out against groups promoting discrimination and hate, the more difficult it will for these groups to spread their message.
You don’t combat bigotry with inaction. You call it out, and you stomp it down.