Leadership is never easy, but it’s especially challenging when you’re dealing with hate and bias. This semester’s Norman and Florence Brody Family Foundation Public Policy Forum, “Leadership in Fraught Times: Responding to Hate and Bias,” featured a timely discussion on the response to hate and bias on a national level and at the University of Maryland.
The discussion was held between Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Doron Ezickson and UMD Chief of Police David Mitchell, with School of Public Policy Dean Robert C. Orr serving as moderator.
Norman and Florence Brody Family Foundation Public Policy Forum Professor Betty Duke delivered the introduction to the forum with a message about the late Florence Brody. “This topic was so much what she cared about,” she said. “She was an advocate for women and people who sometimes don’t get a fair deal.”
Dean Orr began the conversation by asking the two speakers to elaborate on their first encounters with hate and bias. Ezickson described his childhood as the son of an immigrant and having an awareness of being an “other.” “For me, confronting hate and bias is personal,” he said.
Mitchell shared a memory of seeing a cross burning when he was a teenager returning to the US with his family. “One thing I have learned is that hate is not new,” he said. “And hate is not going away anytime soon.”
Ezickson went on to detail how the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tracks activities and trends across the country. He also noted an increase in activity on college campuses over the past few years. “From fall 2016 to fall 2017, there was almost a 200% increase in dissemination of white supremacist fliers on college campuses,” he said. “Hate groups are targeting college campuses. They see college campuses as everything they hate.”
He added that hate groups come to college campuses because they want to reach a wide group of people. “They want groups of people to feel unsafe,” Ezickson said. “They want groups to have conflict.”
Mitchell then described the situation at the University of Maryland. “We’re a small city that’s very rich in our diversity. We’ve been targeted with fliers, nooses and the greatest theft of all--the theft of life with the murder of Lt. Richard Collins III.”
With the rise of modern technology, Ezickson and Mitchell noted the increase in online criminal activity and hate activity. Ezickson said the ADL has worked to convince social media platforms of their responsibility to respond to hate speech on their platforms. “When you see something online, say something,” he said. “Every platform has a place you can report these violations to their code of conduct. Platforms are taking these reports much more seriously.”
Orr asked the two speakers how they stay hopeful when they see so much hate while on the job. Mitchell said, “We as a campus need to build up and maintain our resilience. Our personal resilience is what will carry us through this period.”
“Every citizen has to lead,” Ezickson said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What does it mean to be a citizen of UMD?’ Resilience is a key component. It’s up to the population here to own what it means to be a citizen here. Be there for someone else first. That’s how community gets started.”