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Rejecting Violent Extremism: White House summit to address hate an important opportunity to unify the nation

We welcome President Biden’s announcement today that the White House will host a national summit next month to address hate violence and extremism.

President Biden has repeatedly demonstrated that he understands the importance of speaking out against hate. We hope the summit will provide an opportunity for elected officials and faith, business and community leaders to come together to identify best practices to address hate-fueled violence. And we hope this event will launch a continuing commitment to address these issues in our communities.

Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke have also demonstrated great leadership and a deep commitment to effective enforcement of our nation’s hate crime laws.

The enactment of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in May 2021, which included the provisions of the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act (NO HATE Act), was a major step forward. Later that month, Garland announced a series of initiatives designed to improve the Department of Justice’s capacity to respond to hate violence. And, on the anniversary of the act this year, Garland announced a number of new Department of Justice initiatives designed to better coordinate a more interagency, holistic federal response to hate violence and to promote community healing and build trust to address this national crisis.

We look forward to participating in this important meeting and we urge the administration to focus on three things at its United We Stand Summit:

  • First, it is impossible to address our nation’s hate crime problem without measuring it accurately. Though the FBI has been collecting hate crime data from the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies since 1991, the reporting is voluntary, and many agencies do not provide their information. The federal government should promote compliance incentives and announce that, going forward, it will condition funding for law enforcement agencies on credible reporting of hate crimes.
  • Second, we must acknowledge that hate-fueled violence and the harms it causes cannot be solved by law enforcement alone. We must do more to support victims, survivors and their communities. This convening should center the victims and survivors of hate crimes, extremism and gun violence – and focus on both individual families and building trust and community resilience.
  • Third, the United We Stand Summit cannot be a one-time event or just a photo opportunity. The summit must include plans demonstrating a long-term commitment to continue this work, including community-based follow-up roundtables to highlight best practices, public-private partnerships, restorative justice initiatives and effective law enforcement and community response to hate crimes and extremism.

When confronting bias-motivated hate, white supremacy and violent extremism, words matter. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented how false conspiracy theories and polarizing rhetoric and President Trump’s incitement and executive actions helped create a climate in which hate has been normalized and mainstreamed and has emboldened individual perpetrators to act. There is an urgent need to confront the hate-filled, divisive forces that seek to divide our nation.  

We applaud the president’s important effort to help unify our nation and we stand ready to assist in this essential work.

Picture at top: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the recent mass shootings during a prime-time address from the White House on June 2, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Credit: by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)