At the United We Stand Summit hosted by the Biden administration last week, the White House rolled out an impressive number of government initiatives, along with several public-private partnerships designed to foster unity and build community trust and resilience in the fight against hate and extremism.
We welcomed Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice’s August announcement of the summit to help stem the tide of the corrosive effects of increasing hate-fueled violence and extremism in the United States. As James Baldwin rightly said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
As chief policy officer, I represented the Southern Poverty Law Center at the summit, which brought together local, state and federal policymakers, civil rights groups, faith and community leaders, technology and business leaders, law enforcement officials and survivors of hate-fueled violence and their families – all to combat the proliferation of hate in our country.
Of the many federal government-sponsored events I have attended over the years, none have inspired me more than the United We Stand Summit.
It was an incredible moment of acknowledgment, healing, community transformation and unity. By elevating and highlighting the impact of the mass shootings in Buffalo, El Paso and Oak Creek, the hostage situation at the Colleyville synagogue, and the violent assaults on civilians in New York, Charlottesville and elsewhere, the day was a moment of reckoning and a sober reminder of the devastation that hate-fueled violence has inflicted on minority communities and families both in the past and present.
There was a recognition that the violence has deep roots in system failures as well as societal gaps in the recognition of the humanity in people who are different from us.
Most notably, the program showcased how survivors turned unimaginable tragedy into a movement to transcend hate, acknowledge the humanity of others and offer hope for a world where love wins. The genuine display of bipartisanship – where the public welfare is prioritized above politics – was a refreshing change from the constant barrage of hateful political rhetoric too often dominating public discourse.
The summit was transformational because there was recognition that no one person or entity alone can solve hate, the proliferation of white nationalism and extremism. It takes a village – a commitment from the government, the community, faith leaders, businesses and everyday people working together.
In a letter to Rice in advance of the summit, we urged the planners to focus on survivors and their families, concentrate on forward-looking, long-term prevention initiatives – not merely enforcement of existing laws – and center community-based resources and best practices to address the harms of hate-fueled violence.
Here are highlights of the announced federal agency commitments and community-based programs:
- The White House Initiative on Hate-Motivated Violence will help strengthen federal agency coordination in preventing and responding to hate-motivated violence and increase regular engagement and consultation with key stakeholders.
- A new online resource finder will facilitate access to federal grants, program guidance and community support efforts related to preventing targeted violence, including hate-based targeted violence.
- The Department of the Treasury will develop a website of key reports and resources on the financing of domestic violent extremism to help inform the public and private sectors and will develop workshops for virtual currency firms on how domestic violent extremists use cryptocurrency and other virtual assets.
- The Department of Commerce will award grants to promote development of programs to improve digital literacy and online skills.
- The Department of Justice will expand its United Against Hate initiative, designed to build community trust and understanding and increase hate crime reporting.
- The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are launching a new initiative to connect communities through cultural engagement in every state, promoting civic and social engagement and cross-cultural understanding.
- A new Citizens’ Initiative to Address Hate-Fueled Violence in America will seek to continue the conversation by hosting virtual and in-person public listening sessions this fall in communities around the country, seeking out firsthand testimonials, insights and solutions on preventing and responding to hate-fueled violence.
- More than 140 mayors signed a Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate and Extremism, committing to take several significant actions to prevent and address hate-fueled violence and build bridges across differences to create respect for and inclusion of all peoples within their communities.
- Several leading civic institutions will launch A Nation of Bridgebuilders. Interfaith America, Habitat for Humanity and the YMCA of the USA are committing to engaging tens of thousands of Americans in rural, urban and suburban communities across the nation in meaningful opportunities to bridge diverse identities and divergent ideologies, with a goal of hosting more than 1,000 events in over 300 communities.
- New Pluralists, a cross-ideological group of philanthropists, social changemakers and local leaders, announced it will galvanize funders to invest $1 billion over 10 years to support the field and stand behind the essential work of courageous uniters, healers and bridge-builders, working together to build a culture of respect, belonging and collaboration.
- YouTube pledged to expand its policies to combat violent extremism by removing content glorifying violent acts for the purpose of inspiring others to commit harm, to fundraise or to recruit. It will also launch an educational media literacy campaign across its platform to assist younger users in identifying manipulation tactics used to spread misinformation.
- The technology company Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, committed to work to analyze trends in violent extremism and develop tools that help communities combat it. In addition, Meta will provide educational trainings to equip communities to counter hate-fueled violence.
President Biden also pledged to call on Congress to significantly expand federal support for civics education and to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to address “hate-fueled content mobilizing users to violence to be amplified on large tech platforms.”
The summit and these commitments represent significant steps toward combating extremism and hate-fueled violence.
We and our allies will be pressing the Biden administration to continue to address these issues – both in Washington and in community-based, follow-up field hearings and roundtables to highlight evidence-based best practices, public-private partnerships, restorative justice initiatives, and effective law enforcement and community responses to hate crimes and extremism that can be replicated and scaled.
Photo at top: President Joe Biden speaks during the United We Stand Summit, held in the East Room of the White House on Sept. 15, 2022. Commitments from the summit included the White House Initiative on Hate-Motivated Violence, which will help strengthen coordination among federal agencies in preventing and responding to hate crimes. (Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)