Local Forum Confronts Hate, Bigotry After Charlottesville

Aug 24, 2017

Credit Nick Evans

Local leaders and about 75 Tallahassee residents gathered last night to discuss the recent violence and unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The deadly clash between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville has rattled communities across the country.  And at the offices of the Parks and Crump legal firm Wednesday night, a community forum grappled with what to do next.  Miguel Hernandez, associate director of the Center for Leadership and Social Change at Florida State University, says it starts with questioning what we’ve learned.

“I subscribe to stereotypes that have been recorded in me based on my lived experience that I must take time to examine,” Hernandez says.  “Those stereotypes become prejudice because I assign meaning to those feelings and those thoughts and those messages, right?  Those incomplete stories.”

He says those prejudices become discrimination through actions and choices.

“We really have to self-reflect,” Hernandez says.  “We have to figure out what have we been taught, why were taught those things, and do we still subscribe to those things?  Beyond that I think investing in relationship is very, very important.”

Melanie Annis from the Jewish organization Hillel at Florida State University says later this year her organization is helping to bring those messages to local schools.  It’s a curriculum called No Place for Hate, and it’s used for kindergarten all the way up through high school.

“Some of them are as simple as, [as] I said, putting your thumbprint on an index card and then having that enlarged and projected and showing several thumbprints,” Annis says. 

“How can you actually tell whose is whose?  They’re all the same and yet they’re all unique.”

When it comes to whether Charlottesville could happen in Tallahassee, State Attorney Jack Campbell is blunt—he says it can happen anywhere.  And that puts him in a difficult position.

“We might not agree with what you’re saying,” Campbell says, “but we’ll guarantee your right to say it as long as you conform and keep public safety, but it’s no longer free speech when people are dying.”

Campbell believes local law enforcement is well-equipped to handle a heated protest—he points out the 85,000 spectators at football games can be pretty rowdy.  But he says the best deterrent is probably communication—not just speaking to one another, but listening.