Our VoiceNews & Politics

As Hate Crimes Continue to Rise, One Community Fights Back

Stephen Piggott • Aug 21, 2009

As reported on this blog last month, hate crimes throughout the United States are on the rise. While many state governments have ignored the statistics and refused to address rising hate crimes, one small town in Ohio is taking a stand. Joseph P. Sulzer, mayor of Chillicothe, Ohio, has sprung into action by creating a diversity task force. Mr. Sulzer recruited city and county officials, ministers, school administrators, community members and educators to join him in the effort. Yesterday the task force met for the first time. The mayor’s reason for creating the group is simple: “The unfortunate thing is we’re seeing a lot of hate groups becoming more visible, not just here but throughout the state, and I think this is an appropriate response to that.”

In recent years, hate crimes in the community have increased. Swastika graffiti was found on an African American family’s home last spring. Other graffiti depicting a lynching and racial slurs was found in a park bathroom. In February of 2008, a Martin Luther King march in the town was disrupted when residents came across a large sign on the back of a pickup truck that read, “A real white person would not march of MLK.”

Instead of the usual method of a fruitless police investigation, which usually fails to apprehend the culprits, the mayor hopes that his task force will help to prevent incidents from happening completely through education and awareness. “We’re hoping this group can act as a voice for the community,” Sulzer said. The task force has also had meetings with officials from the FBI, Department of Justice and the US Attorney General’s Office. A member of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division detailed how relatively simple and cost effective a task force like this can be. He stated, “This can be a volunteer effort and not cost the city anything,” “Part of this is in training the youth, teachers, police officers, and offering interfaith dialogue — getting groups worshipping together who normally wouldn’t.”

Ohio has turned into a hotbed of white nationalist activity recently, with groups such as the Counsel of Conservative Citizens setting up new branches throughout the state. BE that as it may, it’s nice to hear about a community that has decided to take a stand against white nationalist’s who are spreading hate. With the increase in hate groups and hate group activity, other communities should follow Chillicothe’s lead. Creating a task force is relatively easy and cost-effective for most communities as long as there are residents committed to making it work.

One of the main goals of white nationalist groups is to divide communities by increasing tension between different racial groups. By creating a successful diversity task force like the newly formed one in Chillicothe, a community can defeat racism by bringing the entire community, men, women, and children of all races together in an effort to eradicate hate crimes.

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