Countering Hate initiative explores issues of intolerance

Countering Hate: Overcoming Fear of Differences graphic shows the night sky and the UNC-Chapel Hill historial signUnder the leadership of Interim Dean Terry Rhodes, a new initiative called Countering Hate: Overcoming Fear of Differences launched this fall in the College of Arts & Sciences to foster community and understanding and help students discuss difficult topics.

Like others across the country, the UNC-Chapel Hill community has experienced painful incidents of racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia. The College is sponsoring programming, and in spring 2020, courses to better understand these troubling topics.

“Through Countering Hate, we will be considering questions such as: What developments and conditions lead to the rise of hate groups and acts of violence, and what can we as a community do to effectively address these sentiments of hate when they do arise?” said Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, senior associate dean of social science and global programs and co-chair of the Countering Hate initiative.

“Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz has recently talked about Carolina’s new strategic plan, with its first and most important goal of ‘building community together.’ This initiative is one way we are working to strengthen the Carolina community,” he added.

Kenneth Stern
Kenneth Stern

The initiative’s signature event is a lecture by Kenneth Stern, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate at Bard College, on Nov. 7. Stern will discuss “Understanding Antisemitism as a Form of Hate” at 5:30 p.m. in the FedEx Global Education Center’s Nelson Mandela Auditorium.

Stern has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and testified before Congress. He was an invited presenter at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes and an official member of the U.S. delegation to the Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance. For 25 years he was the American Jewish Committee’s expert on antisemitism. Since 2018, he has been the director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate.

On Nov. 13, the initiative is sponsoring a talk, “Painful Hope: An Israeli Settler and Palestinian Activist in Dialogue,” at 7 p.m. in Dey Hall’s Toy Lounge.

Countering Hate held several key events earlier this fall.

On Oct. 5, at a “More in Common” workshop for student leaders, participants learned about an unlikely friendship between a Kurdish refugee and a U.S. military veteran/reformed white supremacist. The two friends shared their story of combating hate and bridging divides.

On Oct. 11, a forum, “Difficult Discourse: The Language of Confederate Monuments and Racial Conflict,” was led by linguistics professor Misha Becker and political science professor Mark Crescenzi. The scholars received a Countering Hate grant to help support the project, which was also part of the College’s Reckoning initiative.

The College has awarded two rounds of grant funding for courses and programming linked to the Countering Hate initiative. Some examples of funded projects include:

  • Yaron Shemer, department of Asian studies, support for an ongoing course, “Arab-Jews: Culture, Community and Co-existence.”
  • Patricia Rosenmeyer, department of classics, “The Medea Project,” to be held in the spring. San Francisco-based artist, director and performer Rhodessa Jones and members of The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women/HIV Circle will offer an award-winning performance workshop committed to incarcerated women’s personal and social transformation.
  • Marc Callahan, department of music, an Oct. 30 chamber opera panel discussion/open rehearsal of the opera, As One, which tells the story of a transgender protagonist. The performance weaves a narrative of the protagonist’s life and experiences from childhood through self-discovery as an adult. It will debut in February.
  • Becky Butler, Carolina Asia Center, and Julia Haslett, department of communication, will host a screening of the film Lost World and a conversation with its award-winning Cambodian filmmaker, Kalyanee Mam. The event will help advance the tolerance, empathy and compassion that are critical to preventing hateful speech and action.
  • Kym Weed, department of English and comparative literature, an event: “(En)countering Bias in Medical Training and Practice: A lecture by Damon Tweedy, M.D.”
  • Priscilla Layne in the department of Germanic and Slavic languages and literatures, “Shades of Gray: Antisemitism and Anti-Black Racism Across the Atlantic,” a spring workshop.
  • Elyse Crystall, department of English and comparative literature, a spring course, “Literature of Race, Literature of Ethnicity: Disposable People, Disposable Lives.”

In addition to Colloredo-Mansfeld, the Countering Hate steering committee includes:

  • Elizabeth Engelhardt, interim senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities, co-chair
  • Michele Rivkin-Fish, associate professor of anthropology
  • Yaakov Ariel, professor of religious studies
  • Danielle Christmas, assistant professor of English and comparative literature
  • Raymond Farrow, associate provost for global affairs, UNC Global.

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