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At Eradicate Hate Summit, experts call for programs to prevent radicalization, promote understanding

Counseling, diversity curriculum and easing social determinants of health were some solutions discussed to curb the spread of hate at the Eradicate Hate Summit Wednesday.
Joe Houghton
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Experts called for better data on extremism, more investment in social and public health initiatives and programs that reach kids early as solutions for the continued rise in extremist hate across the globe.

Understanding how someone is able to commit hate crimes and intervening early enough in the radicalization process were two topics discussed at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Wednesday.

The discussions are part of a three-day conference called the Eradicate Hate Summit. Organized by Jones Day, the summit is intended to bring together experts from different fields to discuss how to combat the global rise in hate and extremism.

“We’ve been focusing on individuals and changing individual behaviors, but there is some really cool research in public health on the social determinants of health,” Rajeev Ramchand, senior behavioral scientist with the RAND Corporation said.

Social determinants of health are defined as the conditions where people live, learn and work. Where a person lives can impact their access to health care, quality education and economic opportunity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bettering a community’s social determinants of health could result in fewer hate crimes, Ramchand suggested. He pointed to successful blight reduction programs in Philadelphia as an example of an environment-based solution.

The city program that cleans up blighted neighborhoods found that, after investments were made in a community, gun violence there decreased.

Other suggestions included intervening support programs for kids that prevent them from learning hateful opinions about groups of people. Some resources have already been created to help address how kids might become radicalized online.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and American University have published a guidebook for parents about online radicalization and how to explain to kids the ways they can be targeted by propaganda and disinformation.

Aaron Flanagan, a Southern Poverty Law Center research analyst, and Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a professor at American University, said the guidebook has also helped parents understand the warning signs of radicalization.

But another hurdle experts at the summit hoped to clear is the need for more data on radicalization, hate crimes and extremism.

Michael Jensen, researcher at the Department of Homeland Security’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism, said spotty federal data about hate crime offenders is a major problem.

“If you want to understand offenders of hate crimes and you want to use FBI data you get three pieces of information. You get age, gender and ethnicity,” he said.

Jensen noted that those details have revealed that young white men commit the majority of hate crimes in the United States. But, he said it’s hard to test theories about why this demographic is behind extremist attacks without more studying.

“There are tens of millions of young white men in this country and the vast vast majority of them will never radicalize and never commit a hate crime,” Jensen noted.

Researchers need to “follow groups of individuals as they move through their life course to understand their changes in cognition, changes in their behavior and to really understand the risk factors for radicalization and violence,” he said.

While dozens of studies and programs were discussed as potential solutions to the rise in extremism, summit organizers noted that financial support will be key to bringing these ideas to life.

The summit held discussions Wednesday about how to fund anti-hate and anti-extremism initiatives. Representatives from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 412 Venture Fund and the Department of Homeland Security explained how to secure grant funding for anti-hate programs.

Organizers encouraged those present to leave feeling empowered to take on the lofty goal of the summit —eradicating hate— and to bring solutions to their communities.

“That’s why we’re here,” Laura Ellsworth said. “Each one of you will be a leader in your sphere, in your field, in your community, in your family [and] in your school.”

Ellsworth said this year’s summit is the first of an annual gathering of leaders who will work to tackle extremism as it evolves.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.