Opinion: Tolerance and Hate Groups

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    On Oct. 23, CNN reported on a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in New York City and New York residents gave methods, both good and bad, on handling hate groups.

    Several of the Klan demonstrators were attacked by “angered” New York residents who felt the Klan’s presence was unwanted, and that as a hate group, the Klan’s values were destructive.

    The attackers felt justified. After all, the Klan has been notorious for using violent measures to transmit their hateful views, so why not help them understand what it’s like?

    Although the feelings of the attackers are understandable, their acts are inexcusable — just as inexcusable as the acts of the Klan. Fighting hate groups with hate goes back to the adage mothers quote when one of their children punches another in the stomach for saying a insult to the other: two wrongs don’t make a right.

    The three New York residents and others who have attacked hate groups are operating on a visceral reaction. Someone threatens them, hurts them or hurts or kills someone close to them, so they fight back. They are merely reacting, instead of thinking how to more effectively deal with the problem.

    However, that visceral reaction is natural.

    When a group that represents hate and violence parades itself as something normal, those who have been injured by the group or are a potential target for the group, might understandably be close to rage. “How dare they,” screams the thought through the minds of those who see the group for its hateful nature.

    All that said, for citizens to take matters into their own hands and clobber a Klan demonstrator or an Aryan Nation member or a gay-basher, is to stoop to the level of the hate group and only provoke more violence. A Jew who attacks a member of the Aryan Nation does nothing to fight anti-Semitism, but rather encourages the ill-conceived stereotype that anti-Semantic groups already hold.

    At the same time, tolerance of hate groups and their actions isn’t the answer either. Tolerance toward a group of people because of their race, religion or gender is part of learning to become a better human. Tolerance toward a group that espouses values that can destroy society is complete foolishness.

    New York City’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani and thousands of peaceful protestors may have exemplified the best way to handle hate groups last week despite the bad example of the three men who physically attacked the Klansmen.

    New York City disallowed a permit that would have let the Klansmen wear masks and hoods and thus preserve their anonymity. The Klansmen were forced to carry out their demonstration barefaced. Also, according to CNN, the New Yorkers who showed up in protest of the group far outweighed the number of Klansman. The peaceful protestors and the city of New York did far more to fight the Klan and other hate groups by legally discouraging their behavior than those who attacked the Klansmen.

    President Clinton, in a speech Friday night, labeled hate crimes “the biggest challenge” facing the nation. Whether that is statically true or not is unknown. However, 8,049 crimes that were motivated by either racial, religious or other biases in 1997, speaks loudly.

    To tolerate hate groups is self-destructive, to fight them using hate and violence is hypocritical. Legal and peaceful means that discourage hateful action and prosecute offenders is much more effective medicine than physical retaliation and much stronger than foolish apathy.

    Jeffrey Berry, a Klansman at the demonstration, said in a CNN report, “people don’t understand us.”

    Berry’s and other hate groups feel they are supreme to others who are not of their race or religion or ethnic background. They commit violent acts that destroy property, homes and lives and which can ultimately destroy a society. They justify those acts by saying that the victim deserved it, although the victim had done nothing. They spill the blood of innocents and in some cases have the audacity to do it in the name of God.

    No, Mr. Berry, I guess we don’t understand.

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