The Campus Forum on Hate Speech, Hate Crimes and Far Right Movements attracted a full crowd in the Beach Auditorium Monday, as panelists discussed hate crimes and ways to prevent future hate violence.
University Police officers were also present at the forum and provided a designated free speech zone outside the University Student Union.
As the opening event for LGBT Diversity Week, panelists of the forum agreed that “celebrating diversity is such a strong message,” said panelist Randy Blazak, director of Hate Crimes Research Network. “It’s more than tolerance.”
One of the main topics of the forum was CSULB psychology professor Kevin MacDonald, whose published works have caused him to be accused of anti-Semitism and being a neo-nazi supporter.
“He’s essentially reliving all the anti-Semitic views of the last 100 years,” said panelist Heidi Beirich from the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), who investigated MacDonald in 2006. The SPLC tracks hate groups and crimes nationwide.
All panelists agreed that “the university needs to distance themselves from the work of MacDonald,” Beirich said.
“MacDonald has been heralded by neo-nazi groups,” said panelist Kevin O’Grady from the Anti-Defamation League. “Your university … refuses to condemn him.”
O’Grady said that he felt “silence sends a very clear and resounding message.”
“This doesn’t have to be a highly technical response to MacDonald,” Beirich said. She said that a press release by CSULB President F. King Alexander disassociating the university with MacDonald would be all that was necessary.
“No one is trying to squash free speech,” said panelist Brian Chase from Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization. “We’re trying to squash harassment.”
Alexandra Jaffe, an associate linguistics professor at CSULB, said she is “among the people that say it’s not legitimate research. He is free to say it, and we are free to express our strongest possible distance with him.”
In an April 11 e-mail statement sent to the Daily Forty-Niner, Alexander wrote that “despite the fact that I personally disagree and even find deplorable some beliefs and opinions expressed by a few individuals on our campus, particularly those ideas that are hurtful of certain groups, I believe as Thomas Jefferson stated that ‘errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.'”
Alexander further explained that the university is a forum itself. “Universities should also be firmly committed, even at times when it is against popular opinion, to freedom of thought and when we act to restrict opinions from the far right or the far left, then it will not be long before we can no longer call ourselves a university.”
Panelists agreed that student response to MacDonald is just as important as an executive response.
“You can pick at him,” Beirich said. “You have every opportunity to stand up against him … I hope you do take action.”
According to the SPLC, the number of hate groups has increased by more than 45 percent, from 602 to 888, since 2000.
“The reason is largely a backlash against America’s changing demographics as a result of immigration,” Beirich said.
Panelist Nativo Lopez from the Mexican American Political Association also discussed illegal immigration hate groups.
According to Lopez, more than 62 percent of Americans, including Republicans, “express agreement to legalization of illegal immigrants.”
“The growth of the immigrant population is an unstoppable tendency,” Lopez said.
One other problem O’Grady discussed was keeping track of “the existence of lone wolves – the individual white supremacists and skinheads.”
Blazak said the amount of underreported hate crimes emerges as a problem when trying to study hate groups, calling the dilemma a “huge underside of the iceberg.”
“There is a continuing effort to increase the reporting,” O’Grady said. “Hate flourishes anytime good people don’t speak up.”
Tiffany Rider also contributed to this report.