56 of 100 DOCUMENTS

	The Boston Herald

	August 31, 2001 Friday ALL EDITIONS

	Editorial; OP-ED; A community counters hate



	LENGTH: 626 words

	Last week hundreds of Sharon residents held a candlelight vigil
	against hate, inspired by racist and anti-Semitic leaflets which
	were dumped, days earlier, on lawns across the town. Similar white
	supremacist propaganda has recently shown up in such communities
	as Attleboro, Lexington, Acton, Stoughton and Quincy.

	Why should so many people in a town like Sharon come together to
	protest such an apparently trivial event? After all, nobody was
	murdered, raped or assaulted. There were no rocks thrown through
	the windows of synagogues; no crosses were burned. In fact, if any
	crime was committed at all, it was nothing more than littering.
	The answer is that hate thrives and prospers under conditions of
	silence and nonresponse.

	The National Alliance, a West Virginia-based white supremacist
	organization, counted on its late-night distribution of fliers in
	Sharon to provoke widespread anxiety and division. But the hate
	group never counted on local residents responding instead by
	coming together in a broad-based coalition of Muslims, Christians
	and Jews, and by acquiring the strong backing of the Board of
	Selectmen, state representatives, the School Committee, the
	district attorney's office, local police, the town Recreation
	Department, the Sharon Clergy Council, the Islamic Center of New
	England, the office of the superintendent of schools, the
	Gay-Straight Student Alliance, the Council on Aging, the Sharon
	Community Youth Coalition, the Anti-Defamation League and many
	Christian clergy and congregations in town.

	The response of members of the Sharon community could serve as a
	model for how to respond to hate incidents in general, even those
	that seem most unimportant.

	Where residents let the small incidents pass without response,
	hate can escalate into ever more serious offenses. Interpreting
	silence as support and encouragement, hatemongers are likely to
	take their tactics to a more dangerous level, stopping only when
	they have achieved their intended purpose.

	Last month, for example, Donald Butler, a 29-year-old black
	resident of Pemberton Township, Pa., was targeted by two white
	supremacists who shouted racial slurs at him as he stood on the
	front lawn of his home. Perhaps seeing the verbal abuse against
	their neighbor as an isolated and trivial event, Butler's white
	neighbors did absolutely nothing to assure him of their support or
	indignation. Three weeks later, the same two hatemongers returned
	with baseball bats, this time invading Butler's home in the dead
	of night where they brutally beat him and his wife. The Butlers
	escaped with stitches and broken bones, but they also felt hurt
	and alone, as if no one really cared. They have since relocated to
	a mostly black community.

	The National Alliance has been associated with
	more than just littering. In the interest of establishing an
	all-white society, its members have distributed white power rock
	music and recruited many racist skinheads to the cause. Moreover,
	its leader, William Pierce, in his racist book "The Turner
	Diaries," apparently provided the blueprint for Timothy McVeigh's
	1995 murder of 168 people in Oklahoma City.

	Hate is more than just an individual offense. It can poison the
	relations between groups and escalate into large-scale ethnic
	conflict. When thinking of the consequences of hate, we are likely
	first to imagine the horrible violence in Bosnia, Israel or
	Northern Ireland. Or, we might recall the extraordinary murder of
	James Byrd, the black resident of Jasper, Texas, who was dragged
	to his death behind a pickup truck.

	But we should also never forget where hate begins - in the silence
	of ordinary people.

	Jack Levin is the director of the Brudnick Center on Conflict and
	Violence at Northeastern University.

	LOAD-DATE: August 31, 2001


	Copyright 2001 Boston Herald Inc.