On Saturday, clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters turned deadly when a man rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman.
Morning Shift spoke with two activists about confronting racism and hate in the wake of these clashes: Mrinalini Chakraborty, head of field operations and strategy for the Women’s March Network, the group that organized the Women’s March on Washington, and former neo-Nazi Christian Picciolini, who co-founded the non-profit Life After Hate, which works with people who want to leave the white supremacy movement.
Here are some highlights from that conversation:
On difficult conversations that must be had
Mrinalini Chakraborty: In your own home, it’s really uncomfortable. That’s where it gets really problematic, but we have to confront those. It’s not enough to say, “Well, that uncle is just like that.” Everybody has an opportunity to educate, to spread awareness.
Christian Picciolini: People join extremist groups not because of ideology, they join because of community and identity and purpose. And if there’s something broken underneath, if there’s something missing — if there’s trauma or abuse or addiction or chronic poverty or unemployment — people tend to look for answers in unsafe places. They tend to look for quick solutions when they’re desperate.
On the role of compassion in overcoming hate
Piccioloni: I know it’s probably not a really popular bit of advice, “Be kind to Nazis,” but the truth is every single person I’ve worked with in disengaging from the movement has said the same thing. Once they got to know the people they thought they hated, the couldn’t hate them any more.
On what can be done going forward
Chakraborty: This weekend was also an opportunity, and I hope there are many more such moments, that white people will also come to the forefront and condemn these acts, saying “This is not what represents white America.” I really want people to be more than allies, they need to be comrades in the fight.
This segment was produced by Carrie Shepherd. Paula Friedrich adapted it for web.