We are still dealing with the Atlanta area shooting of African American jogger, and now the death of George Floyd by law enforcement. In the midst of this violence, Chattanooga announced progress in creating a physical space to remember the lynching of an African American more than a century ago. The memorial will be a contemplative space near the Walnut Street Bridge and despite the pandemic, the expectation is that people will come to learn, reflect, mourn and learn from history. And hopefully, to apply those lessons going forward
Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
Reporters haven’t lacked for stories about hate groups and lone wolves whether it’s Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, Milwaukee’s acid attack on a Latino, Dallas’ shooting of a transgender woman, or El Paso’s Walmart massacre. So I was surprised to see journalist from around the region looking relaxed and hanging out together at an event convened by Chattanooga’s Council Against Hate, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Lookout, and sponsor BlueCross BlueShield of TN. I expected them to look stoic and even jaded given the thick skins they’ve had to develop. But the passion for their work was awesome and so was their excitement about doing research undercover.
“The Final Generation”
Some refer to Generation Z – those born, roughly, from the mid-1990s onward – as ‘The Final Generation’. This is not due to some apocalyptic vision of the future, but rather as a reflection of the nature of culture in online spaces.
In previous generations, it could be reasonably assured that a monoculture would develop. Because of the nature of the distribution of media and the limited ways in which it could be communicated, entire generations of youth would grow up with roughly the same cultural experiences – watching the same shows and cartoons, consuming the same film and radio programs.
Chattanooga Council Against Hate
Shelley Rose is Deputy Director with the Southeast Region Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which tracks trends in hate. In this position, she organizes community programming, provides educational outreach to community organizations, coordinates legislative advocacy and conducts workshops and presentations for parents and educators on religious intolerance, anti-bias training and cultural awareness. Shelley’s articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and journals and she has appeared on television and radio as a spokesperson for ADL.
Shelley also spoke at the inaugural meeting of Chattanooga’s Council Against Hate, an initiative spearheaded by Mayor Andy Berke. In an interview with Deborah Levine, Mayor Berke explained the background for doing this project
It was important to think of community togetherness and to make sure that no one got radicalized because of the incident. Hate is Everywhere. All kinds of different ideologies that permeate the hate eco-system. What they have in common is people who’ve gotten disaffected from society and are taken advantage of by groups that promote and encourage violence. The US State Department under [Secretary] John Kerry encouraged me to converse with mayors and leaders of cities across the globe dealing with similar issues through the Strong Cities Network. The initiative provides an international platform for discussing challenges and options. I am now on its Board of Directors. I hosted an event at the German Marshal Fund and have hosted members coming to Chattanooga from the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
Mayor Berke is now working with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to battle hate ad extremism in cities across the country. In his interview, Mayor Berke described his announcement of the Council Against Hate.
We see hate from national leaders, our schools, our computer screen and phones. We must begin by rejecting the idea that we powerless against hate. We can change how hate is spread and can create tools to do so. I announced the formation of a Council Against Hate at the State of the City address in April 2018 and proceeded to bring together diverse leaders to serve on the council. Individuals working together can workshop ideas and make them better. Coordination can speed those ideas, continue and replicate them.