Civil Discourse and Acts of Acceptance
2011 Hours Against Hate is a campaign with the goal of countering bigotry and promoting tolerance across lines of culture, religion, class, origin, gender and race. It has be launched by Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith, and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal. They spoke about the campaign in a town hall meeting hosted by George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs, on Friday.
Though both women work for the State department, they did not meet until after the foiled Time Square bombing, when Rosenthal came to Pandith to offer what help she could in mitigating possible backlash against Muslims.
Pandith and Rosenthal both work largely with communities outside of the US and they came together again as part of a State Department delegation to a conference on tolerance in Kazakstan. Each was set to give a speech on tolerance, Pandith on Islamophobia and Rosenthal on anti-Semitism. On the day of their address, they decided to switch speeches because, as Rosenthal says, “The messenger matters…When a broad array of people speak out for a community, that gets attention.”
This is the thinking behind 2011 Hours Against Hate which asks people to volunteer on behalf of someone “who doesn’t look like, live like you, or pray like you,” as Rosenthal put it during Friday’s Town Hall meeting. While begun by the State Department, the campaign is entirely online and Pandith and Rosenthal hope that people will use the loose guidelines to make it their own. The worldwide campaign is especially aimed at young people who may be dissatisfied with the state of tolerance in their communities but feel powerless to do anything about it. “You may not have a disposable income to write a check,” Pandith said. “But you can give your time.”
To participate, people simply pledge a certain number of hours toward volunteer service. A Muslim teenager might pledge to help a Catholic youth group; a black college student might pledge to tutor recent immigrants in English. You can start a group project or volunteer individually.
You can become a part of the campaign on Facebook or Twitter, with the hashtage: #2011AgainstHate
The campaign, which officially launched at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, in February of this year, uses online networks to mobilize, “what happens online is increasingly important,” Rosenthal says.
Where 2011 Hours Against Hate aims to turns online activity into real-world actions, another new organization, Civilination, aims to change the way people interact and engage while online. They want to put a stop to online bullying, harassment and abuse like the negative comments that followed these news stories.
Last fall we honored National Endowment of the Humanities Chairman, Jim Leach with a Common ground Award for his mission to reinvigorate America’s public discourse with some much needed civility. Civilination has similar goals thought they are concerned with the online sphere, where anonymity often makes vitriol greater.
Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, who sits on the Civilination Board of Directors, speaks about why he’s taking a stand for civil discourse online:
Among other initiatives, Civilination offers lectures and outreach to universities, organizations and online communities as well as awards for those who promote and contribute to “cybercivility.”
As Hannah Rosenthal put it, online or in the real world “holding people accountable who spew hatred, is everyone’s responsibility.”