Standing Together Against Hate
By Ken Zimmerman
Following the 2016 presidential election, the United States has been grappling with a rapid rise in various forms of hate expressed at people of color, of certain faiths, women, the LGBTI community, and immigrants. Like many organizations and communities, the Open Society Foundations are deeply troubled by this wave of hate and launched a $10 million initiative on November 22 as an immediate response. This initiative aims to document hate incidents and to support solidarity and common action between those targeted and the organizations that support them.
The initiative has three interrelated prongs:
- To provide support to frontline community organizations contending with incidents of hate.
- To build a common hate incident reporting database.
- To develop legal and social services and litigation capacity to help respond to hate incidents.
On December 1, the Open Society Foundations went live with the first part of the initiative, offering support to local communities and organizations around the country that are dealing with acts of hate. The goals are to help communities: (1) deter, de-escalate, and respond to violence, harassment, and intimidation that target certain populations; (2) empower persecuted individuals and groups; and (3) equip local communities to stand together against acts of verbal abuse and violence directed towards persecuted populations. We have received enormous interest from local groups thus far, and we are committed to moving quickly in response—letting successful applicants know about their grants within three weeks of receiving their proposal. The Open Society Foundations will accept applications through February 15, 2017.
The second part of the initiative focuses on documenting hate incidents through a public, searchable database that collects and categorizes acts of hate by type of incident, affected community, and geographic location. The site, which we expect to go live in late January, is intended to be the go-to resource for reporters, federal and state agencies, and civil society actors who want to learn about trends and pursue ways to address the problem.
The third element of the initiative will connect aggrieved individuals with legal resources, social service providers, and policy advocates. This project, which involves developing, coordinating, and implementing a strategic legal and social service response to hate incidents nationwide, will address these issues through appropriate civil and criminal remedies; coordination of activities with local, state, and federal partners; and the implementation of a national hotline.
We hope this “top down, bottom up” approach will empower communities to protect the most vulnerable among them and help heal the wounds of hate. The need is urgent: according to the latest Southern Poverty Law Center tally, there have been more than 1,000 bias-related incidents since the election. We applaud our partners in civil society who are rising to meet this challenge, and stand firm in the belief that attacks on any of us are attacks on all of us.
Until January 2018, Ken Zimmerman was the director of U.S. Programs.