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Illinois anti-hate commission calls for unity, decries bias crime and builds helpline

scrabble tiles spell out no hate

As the holiday season approaches, the Illinois Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes decried a rise in hate in Illinois and the country.

Meanwhile, in March a helpline for those who encounter hate crime will have what a spokeswoman
called a soft launch. The helpline, part of a $1.1 million grant to the commission from the federal Department of Justice, will start officially in September, she said.

The helpline will be a safe and confidential service, separate from law enforcement, according to the commission. :”It will provide essential tools, support, and referrals for victims of hate crimes.”

“As we enter December, a month where so many of us gather with friends and family, the CDHC calls on all Illinoisans to work together to counter and prevent bias and hate,” said Jim Bennett , director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights and commission chair.

“Hate should never have a home here in Illinois,” said Gov. JB Pritzker, in support of the commission. “I call on all Illinoisans to reject hate, alienation, and bias in favor of empathy. When we treat one another with respect and dignity, it protects us all.

“In times of crisis, we may be inclined to turn against each other. Groups that are targeted with bias and hate may focus on other targeted populations as the source of their strife, feeding the weeds of blame, mistrust, and hate, harming all vulnerable populations,” he said. “Hate is an insidious impulse and emotion that adapts, shifts its target, and manifests in a range of pernicious behaviors; when hate against one group is allowed to flourish, it inevitably will shift and target another group, often led by malicious opportunists.”

A recent report by the Anti Defamation League found that “Illinois has seen a dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents in recent years. In 2022, the number of incidents increased by 128% from 2021 levels, rising from 53 to 121. The state’s total was the seventh-highest number of incidents in the country in a year when ADL tracked the highest-ever number of antisemitic incidents nationwide.

The report, Hate in the Prairie State: Extremism and Antisemitism in Illinois – covered in addition to antisemitic incidents – extremist plots, white supremacist propaganda and hate crime statistics. The hate cited was directed at not only Jews, but racial minorities, LGBTQ individuals, reproductive rights groups and government itself.

CDHC Executive Director Elana Kahn said, “The CDHC calls our entire community to add light during these dark times by lowering the temperature of division and polarization. We call on leaders to lead with a vision of an interconnected community, where we rise or fall together.

“If we are to build a community where we and our families can thrive, we cannot tolerate bias and hate against any group. Racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-LBGTQ+ bigotry, and white nationalism are interconnected. Our fates are inextricably and practically linked to each other.

We invite all Illinoisans to commit ourselves to be forces for good in and among our diverse and
interdependent communities."

The commission, which is an entity within the Illinois Department of Human Rights, offered tips on how hate can be defused.

• Be wary of misinformation and be judicious with your online discourse. If you have children, monitor their use of social media.

• Interrupt bigoted language.

• Cultivate curiosity and empathy.

• Care for yourself and your mental health.

• If you are in danger or if you have been the victim of a hate incident, call 9-1-1.

• If someone you know is being radicalized, consider contacting Parents for Peace.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.