Responding to Bigoted Organizing in Your Community
When a white nationalist or bigoted organization holds an event, distributes leaflets, or otherwise makes their presence known in your community, many people have the impulse to ignore it. They hope that it will just go away. We have found from experience that this doesn’t work.
By standing up and speaking with others, you can undermine support for bigotry and create a positive an inclusive community.
These tips can help you respond effectively. You can do any or all of them, depending on the capacity and needs of your community.
Inoculate and Get Involved
You can take steps to counter the far right before they ever come to town. Get involved in a constituency-based group in your community. Volunteer for an organization in your community that works for civil rights, immigrants’ rights, human rights or racial, economic, gender or environmental justice. Reach out to organizations representing communities frequently targeted by organized racists and bigots.
Research and Document the Event and Group
Documenting the facts about a white nationalist or bigoted group and its actions can be the first step in ending the denial and silence that allow these groups to grow. Solid information can allow you to expose and counter the bigotry promoted by the group, determine who and how they are targeting for recruitment, and alert the community to the threat the group poses. To find information on the group or event, go to their website, search online for background on them, and contact organizations that specialize in researching organized bigotry (link to list of groups?).
Reach Out to the Community and Build Coalitions
Once you have done some research, reach out to community groups to let them know this is happening. Share the information you have found and call people together to discuss a response. While bigoted groups often target one group at a time, a little digging usually finds that their goals threaten many in the community. Reach out broadly groups in the community targeted by the far right or who hold values and interests that are threatened.
Develop a Message the Both Counters and Offers Alternatives
Far-right groups target communities bigotry, conspiracy theories, distorted versions of the Constitution and claims to address community issues. You can undermine their outreach by building messages that (1) counter and discredit their ideas and goals; and (2) offer alternatives that demonstrate the values you and your communities support. In your counter message point out the bigotry, divisiveness, and ineffectiveness of what far-right groups offer in the face of genuine community concerns. Use this part of your message to expose the ideas and background of these groups and their negative impact on the broader community. In your alternative message, point out real solutions to community issues and offer values of racial, gender, economic and environmental justice that bring diverse members of the community together.
Speak Out and Hold a Counter Event
Speak out and hold a visible public event that brings diverse members of the community together and expresses your counter and alternative messages. A visible community presence for racial justice and diversity can lessen the isolation felt by targets of far-right bigotry and violence. Avoid cookie-cutter solutions and do what best fits your community and addresses the problem. Examples of possible actions include rallies at the site of the far right event or community gatherings away from the event. You can hold a press conference to announce your event or set up public hearings to get the word out.
Engage the Press
Get your message out through the press. You can do this through a press release, a press conference, writing a guest editorial or organizing letters to the editor. Emphasize both your counter and alternative messages.
Encourage Community Leaders to Speak Out
Reach out to leaders in your community and encourage them to issue public statements condemning the bigoted activity. This can include religious leaders from all denominations, civic leaders, elected officials, leaders of local unions and businesses or other community groups. If an action such as leafletting targets a specific neighborhood, include community leaders or groups from that area.
Work in constituencies targeted for recruitment
Many things can lead people to join or be influenced by far-right groups, including frustration, fear, anger, and existing bigotry. While these groups are often driven by narrow and bigoted views, they may attempt to target people based on a variety of issues impacting the community. These can include economic, cultural and political issues. Study the messages being used to recruit and develop counter-messages and alternatives. Reach out to leaders in communities targeted for recruitment and encourage them to speak out.
Target your own community for long-term solutions and change
While you may be addressing a single event or activity, this is a long-term struggle. Every community has ongoing issues of institutional racism, inequality, prejudice, and misunderstanding. Organize to address these issues in your community. The far right is a political movement and the solutions include long-term community-based alternatives to their vision. Get engaged in constituency-based work for racial, economic, gender and environmental justice in your community and address the range of issues that far-right groups attempt to exploit.
Encourage peer-based responses among youth
Encourage youth organizing, but do not try to direct it. Young people will listen to peers more than adults. Adults can provide information and resources, but don’t try to control