Building up by tearing down

The great news about North Shore Community College’s (NSCC) Respect Inclusion forum scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday is not the topic but the fact that the forum is the 40th focused on societal issues NSCC has hosted since 1996.

That is an impressive track record and an even more impressive commitment to exploring tough topics and hammering home the need for change and progress. The college and the forum organizers, past and present, deserve praise and all the resources they need to continue and to expand their efforts.

Wednesday morning’s forum on the Danvers campus, and a second forum Thursday evening on the Broad Street campus in Lynn, will focus presentations and discussion on building hate-free communities. Both forums are free and they are underpinned by frightening statistics.

NSCC’s website quotes Southern Poverty Law Center statistics charting the rise in American hate groups from 917 in 2016 to 954 in 2017. The number of neo-Nazi groups documented by the Center rose from 99 to 121 from 2016 to 2017.

What does this increase mean and what good does it do to bring a bunch of people together on a college campus to talk about statistics and social unrest and injustice? NSCC has been exploring answers to those questions in a variety of ways for 22 years.

A college forum hosted in 2008 framed the immigration rights debate as a human rights debate and a forum the following year engaged participants in discussions about gay rights under the title “opening the door.”

The country’s staggering economy inspired another 2009 forum titled, “Hope: Getting through Hard Times” and “Tolerance in a Time of Intolerance” was the 2010 topic. In the years since that forum, NSCC has organized discussions and assembled speaker panels around topics including homelessness, incarceration, gender inequality, and faith.

All of these discussions take on greater weight and urgency at a time when debates over so many different American concerns — race, harassment, economic inequity — are dominating national discussions and traditional and social media debate.

Past NSCC forums probably included two-day-long sessions but the decision to organize this week’s forum as a two-day event in two locations stresses the importance of the forum topic.

Building hate-free communities is a discussion that has to begin at the beginning with a definition of hate followed by the recognition of how and where hate festers in a community. Once this often-painful awareness takes place, the discussion can turn to the ultimate solution for vanquishing hate.

Only by shining the blinding glare of public recognition and awareness on hate speech and hate groups will communities, institutions and individuals end hatred. NSCC has found the right settings for debating constructive solutions for ending hate. Forum organizers have also amassed a track record of courageous, unflinching discussion about important social topics.

Let the discussion begin.

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