Beyond Charlottesville

Some Teaching Resources for Confronting Hate and Extremism—On and Off Campus

Posted Aug 14, 2017

This past weekend’s events were beyond disturbing (go to here and here). Sensing a changed political climate, various Neo-Nazis, Klan groups, white nationalists, and other Alt-Right fellow travelers marched in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, where they were confronted by counter-protestors, religious activists, and some left-wing groups. The resulting melee was violent and bloody, and one young woman was killed and at least 19 other people were injured when an Alt-Right sympathizer seemingly intentionally drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors.

University, college, and high school educators will soon be heading back to their classes as Labor Day—the unofficial end of summer—arrives. I suspect many of them will end up being asked about the events in Charlottesville and what the future of group relations and civil rights will be like in the United States. It’s an understatement to say there is a lot at stake here. Many of us are still dismayed that these Alt-Right Extremist groups are now emboldened to leave their accustomed anonymity on the Internet and to show themselves—often without hoods—in the public square. But they are there now. And we need to think beyond Charlottesville about dealing with them, confronting them, and planning future responses to incidences of intolerance and ignorance.

What to do? How do we deal with hate and extremism post-Charlottesville? Prejudice, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, the list is long—any and all hate aimed broadly at various diverse and minority groups in American society—must be confronted. Doing so in the classroom requires thought and care. Students must be educated about the difference between free speech rights and hate speech (and actions) designed to harm others. The signs and signals associated with Nazism (both in WWII Germany and the contemporary United States) need to be unpacked and explained. And yes, how much of this arose out of the 2016 presidential election also needs to be examined—this not simply a “Red State vs. Blue State” matter.

Fortunately, there are ample resources available for interested teachers (as well as administrators, parents, and students themselves). Below is a short list to get started—as is often the case, one source will lead to others. May I recommend that teacher colleagues share what information they find for their classrooms on social media outlets (e.g., Facebook) so that peer teachers can learn about and adopt them?  

(1) Academic psychology has long studied intergroup relations, including those between various hate groups and other groups. My colleague, Linda M. Woolf of Webster University, has written persuasively on recent events—I suggest this is a good place to begin: here.

(2) Dr. Woolf and her colleague, Dr. Michael Hulsizer, have also written a thoughtful piece on “Hate Groups for Dummies”—and no, it is not tongue-in-cheek. It is another good place to begin: here.

(3) A variety of teaching resources linked to diversity can be found on the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s webpage: here.

(4) Various course syllabi (with suggested readings and activies) concerning the teaching of diversity, multiculturalism, and prejudice can be found here.

(5) Drs. Mary Kite and Bernard Whitley wrote an important and helpful book titled Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination (2016, 3rd edition).

(6) Dr. Scott Plous edited a very good anthology of readings titled Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination (2002).

(7) Up to date information and resources on various hate groups, including those who went to Charlottesville, VA, can be found on the website of The Southern Poverty Law (SPL) Centersplcenter

(8) A “Hate Map” detailing the location of various Hate Groups in the United States can also be accessed at the SPL Centersplcenter/hate-map

We don’t need bellicose pronouncements or saber rattling – we need sober and confident discussions in our classrooms and on our campuses to educate our students and our communities. Sadly, these challenges are not new ones—they have just morphed into a new form.