Remarks as Prepared
Today we saw the many ways hate rears its ugly head – from online harassment and verbal threats, from church burnings and attacks inside houses of worships, from physical assaults and mass murder. All hate crimes and incidents have one thing in common: they are intended to terrorize individuals and families, and entire communities because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.
While hearing these stories today was undoubtedly challenging, I hope, like me, you find strength in the fact that people all across the country showed up today to learn more about how they can confront the rise in hate crimes and hate incidents. It gives me hope knowing that there will always be more people willing and ready to stand up to hate than those who are driven by it.
But there was so much more to take away from today. I found courage by learning from those who have previously challenged hate crimes. As Attorney General Garland noted, the department is truly grateful to those whose years of advocacy and activism made passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act possible 12 years ago. Civil Rights Division prosecutors have excelled over the last decade at handling hate crimes cases and holding perpetrators accountable, thanks in part to this critical federal law. Standing up to modern day hate remains one of our top priorities in the Civil Rights Division.
You heard today that prosecutions alone cannot address the many forms of hate crimes and hate incidents, and the lasting injuries they cause to people and to communities at large. Today’s convening also recognizes work that is happening right now to stop hate and to help those harmed by it to heal, and even become leaders in this cause. We are equally grateful to those whose recent activism made the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act a reality just last May. Thanks to this act we now have a critical foundation for efforts beyond prosecution. Indeed, hate prevention efforts and seeking redress outside of the courtroom are a part of the comprehensive approach to this work.
As you heard, the Attorney General also charged DOJ leadership with ensuring that the department: improves incident reporting; increases law enforcement training and coordination at all levels of government; prioritizes community outreach; makes better use of civil enforcement mechanisms; and coordinates the department’s anti-hate crime and incident resources. This constitutes a valuable roadmap for change.
Perhaps most inspiring, was the courage displayed by the Shepard and Byrd families, by survivors like Taylor Dumpson and by all of the other incredible advocates who presented here today. Their presentations are vital reminders that each of us plays a key role in the battle to confront and prevent hate in our communities. They challenged all of us to find new ways to confront and prevent hate in our daily lives. That may mean speaking up to address misinformation and online bullying if you see it on social media platforms. As Louvon Harris, sister of James Byrd, reminded us, that may mean being intentional about educating young people about tolerance and embracing the diversity that makes our nation unique. And for the many practitioners and advocates with us today, that may mean revisiting traditional legal frameworks with fresh eyes to find creative solutions for modern-day problems and, where appropriate, working together to identify legislative improvements to hate crimes laws. Each one of us must find a way to put the words and lessons from today’s conference into action in our professional and personal lives.
There is no doubt – confronting hate can be daunting but I truly could not be prouder to be working with you to confront this challenge together. On behalf of the Civil Rights Division, we thank all who spoke from the heart and made today’s convening so meaningful.
We also thank particular individuals without whom this event could not have happened, including the Hate Crimes Conference Planning Committee, led by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Johnathan Smith, Senior Counsel Jen Robins, and Policy Analyst Angela Washington. Of course, there are many more people to thank for the development and execution of today’s event, and who have also been integral to the important work of the department’s anti-hate efforts. Our appreciation extends also to all of these dedicated people.
The final note of gratitude goes to all of you joining today’s convening. Your continued efforts to provide the Civil Rights Division and the department with the valuable feedback we need to move forward to combat hate are truly appreciated. We look forward to continuing to serve alongside you on the front lines in the battle against hate, to standing firm in the face of animus and hate and to speaking with one voice about the values and principles that must animate and drive our never-ending pursuit for a more just and perfect Union.
I will close by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King who observed: “When your days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.”