SPLC guide helps bystanders counter hate incidents

In the aftermath of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and an outbreak of bias incidents across the country, the SPLC has published a guide to help college students and others safely and effectively take action when they witness acts of public intimidation and hate crime.

A Guide to Bystander Intervention offers strategies for responding to hate incidents without jeopardizing one’s own safety. It also examines how to prepare for such situations – a key to overcoming feelings of helplessness that frequently prevent people from taking action. The guide is a project of the SPLC on Campus program, which currently has clubs at 55 colleges across the country.

“Hate incidents, by their very nature, are intimidating, which is why it’s so difficult for people to respond in the moment,” said Lecia Brooks, SPLC director of outreach. “College students especially wanted to know how they can take a stand against such hate because their campuses are increasingly being targeted by the radical right. This guide shows how bystanders can take a number of actions that send a clear message that hate will not be tolerated.”

In the 10 days following the 2016 presidential election, the SPLC documented almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation – fallout from an election that saw Donald Trump wage a campaign marked by incendiary racial statements, the stoking of white racial resentment, and attacks on so-called “political correctness.”

In May, two men were fatally stabbed as they attempted to stop the anti-Muslim harassment of young women on a train in Portland, Oregon. A few months later, violence erupted at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Anti-racist protester Heather Heyer was run down and killed by a car.

“The deadly violence we’ve witnessed this year has moved people of conscience to take action, but it also raises serious questions about ensuring one’s personal safety when responding to a hate incident,” Brooks said. “This guide makes clear that direct confrontation, which can be dangerous, is not the only option. There are other strategies available.”

Such strategies include delegation. This means bringing other bystanders together to work as a team, such as getting a store manager to take action when a hate incident occurs at a business. If the person targeted for harassment is already being assisted, a bystander can also help by documenting the incident on video.

Amid the hate being spread by the so-called “alt-right” and other extremist movements, the SPLC has distributed other resources to help the public. Days before the Charlottesville rally in August, the SPLC released The Alt-Right on Campus: What Students Need to Know. The guide, also a project of SPLC on Campus, explains the racist ideology of the alt-right, profiles its leaders and offers instructions to help students counter the movement and avoid violent confrontations.

Three days after Charlottesville, the SPLC published a new edition of Ten Ways to Fight Hate, its longstanding guide for effectively – and peacefully – taking a stand against bigotry. The guide sets out 10 principles for taking action, including how to respond to a hate rally that has targeted your town.