Director of outreach at Southern Poverty Law Center discusses the state of hate and extremism in U.S.

By Saárah Murphy

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

Lecia Brooks, director of outreach at the Southern Poverty Law Center, promoted diversity and tolerance as the solution to the nation’s current state of hate and extremism at an event hosted as part of the “Hate Has No Home at UMass” campaign on Oct. 2 in Goodell Hall.

The SPLC, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization, monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists, in addition to promoting tolerance.

“The reason there is hate in the world today is because of the shifting national demographics,” Brooks said at the event.

Brooks displayed a slide showing the wide population range between whites and non-whites. In 1970, whites made up 83 percent of the American population, and non-whites made up only 17 percent.

Today, whites make up 66 percent of the population, as compared to non-whites, who make up 34 percent.

By 2050, SPLC predicted that whites would make up 49 percent of the population, compared to non-whites who will make up 51 percent.

“Whites will no longer be the majority by 2040 [and] by 2060, there will be no clear majority of an ethnic group,” Brooks said.

She added that the response to the shift in demographics has been an increase in hate and bias incidents. Brooks continued, stating that

“these incidents are happening in every region around the country.”

According to the SPLC, reported hateful incidents occur primarily in public places and K-12 schools.

Brooks and the SPLC discovered that the number one reason for these biased incidents is anti-immigration beliefs, which Brooks attributed as a “theme” in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

“Hate increased following Trump’s electoral win,” Brooks said.

As an example, Brooks shared the story of Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who perpetrated the Charleston Church shooting in 2015. Brooks stated that Roof was “radicalized online by the algorithms Google offers.” She continued to note that

“Roof became obsessed.”

Responsible for the murder of nine people, “[Roof] was vulnerable and got the idea to go into a church and kill Black groups.”

However, Brooks pointed out that the Charleston shooting was not a singular instance.

“Today, people are increasingly radicalized,” Brooks stated.

“We need to pay attention to hate speech. No one is immune from it, the only thing we can do to inoculate it is to pay attention to it.”

At the end of the presentation, Brooks quoted the speech “I Have a Dream,” by Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “no, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Erin Stoetzner, a freshman, found the lecture necessary, saying,

“I need to take it upon myself to further the conversations that need to be talked about.”

James Cordero, a freshman English major, found the lecture “uncomfortable, but productive.”

“I need to experience this discomfort,” Cordero added. “We’re all people, and we all need to come together.”

As stated on the official UMass website, the goal of the “Hate Has No Home at UMass” campaign is to “stand united in defense of diversity and inclusion.”

“Now more than ever, [the University] must show that we reject all forms of bigotry and hatred,” the website states.

“Hate will never have a home at UMass,” said Crystal Maldonado, Diversity Communications Manager of University of Massachusetts News and Media Relations.

Saárah Murphy can be reached at [email protected]