Updates in Hate Scholarship: Does the Internet Make Us More Hateful?

The internet allows us to communicate in more negative ways–and the fact that we’re online so much means that verbal abuse is a constant threat, according to the British report Abusive and Offensive Online Communication: Summary of Scoping Report. 

You might think that when folks aren’t anonymous on the internet, they’d keep quieter about their racism. That’s not quite the case–but the good news is that others use social media to speak up against hate. That is the argument that Irfan Chaudhry and Anatoliy Gruzd make in “Expressing and Challenging Racist Discourse on Facebook: How Social Media Weaken the ‘Spiral of Silence’ Theory,” published in Policy & Internet. 

But the relationship between social media and racist behavior may not be clear, according to Abdallah Alsaad, Abdallah Taamneh, and Mohamad Noor Al-Jedaiah in “Does Social Media Increase Racist Behavior? An Examination of Confirmation Bias Theory,” Technology in Society(2018).

Make Hate Unsustainable: Tour Dates Announced

“There is no power out of the church,” 19th century theologian and minister Albert Barnes wrote to white ante-bellum America, “that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.” Though Christian abolitionists were instrumental in fighting slavery, it was ended through warfare, and the American church missed its calling to enact Jesus’s radical call to peace, justice, and love. Likewise, today, privileged Christians deny their mandate and their power to address hate and oppression.

Want to talk more about how Christians, and especially white Christians, can make hate unsustainable? Consider coming out to talk with me in person this April.

hate map PAPennsylvania has more hate group activity than almost any another state. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map, 36 hate groups are currently operating in the state.

I’m heading out on a short tour from central to western PA to talk to congregations, individuals, and community groups about the current state of hate in the US today and, specifically, what people of faith can do about it. Over the next week or so, I’ll be sharing the dates and details of each event. Currently, they include:

Sunday, April 7: preaching at Stahl Mennonite Church in Johnstown, PA

Monday, April 8-Thursday, April 11: leading a pastoral retreat for pastors in the Allegheny Conference of Mennonite Church USA at Camp Laurelville in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. Check out the plan of events here.

Saturday, April 13, 7-8:30: A community conversation about hate, Penn State University, State College

Sunday, April 14, 3-5 pm, Peace Walk, State College

Dates for additional events in Pittsburgh and State College are forthcoming.



Please stop dragging abortion into this.

The older woman I was speaking to and I had had a mostly good conversation about politics. I think we both felt heard. We had found some common ground. We agreed that, on the local level, especially, politicians should mostly be evaluated by their responsiveness to the needs of their constituents. Then, as we concluded the conversation, she told me, “But I’m not going to vote for an abortionist.”

Of course you’re not, I thought with irritation, because no one who is an “abortionist” is running. The choices in her local election were between two people from the world of business. No matter who she voted for, they weren’t likely to be people who performed abortions. Sheesh.

But I understood her point: abortion is the only issue that will determine how she votes.

I don’t entirely disagree with it. In fact, I use a similar measure: whichever politicians is likely to do the most to reduce women’s need for legal abortions is likely to get my vote. I think that there is no more important measure of a society than how it treats its most vulnerable people. I vote based upon how I anticipate the least powerful–children, women, people of color, the poor, those with disabilities–will be treated by the people I vote for. I figure that if a politician is doing what we know works to reduce abortion (supporting universal healthcare, robust public education, and fair wages), then that person is working for the world I want.

For me, that almost always means voting for pro-choice candidates, because they are the ones who do the most to care for children. And they are the ones who do the most to reduce the abortion rate. If you think that abortion is the worst thing in the world, then you should vote for the things–universal healthcare, comprehensive sex ed, better wages–that reduce it, even if, in a different world, you think those things are bad. Even if you think that the Affordable Care Act is wrong, it has to be a distant wrong compared to abortion, right? And the ACA has been shown to reduce abortion.

“But abortion!” is the distraction that Republican leaders to remind their voters (the majority of whom, by the way, support the right to an abortion under at least some circumstances) that they have promised their vote to the Republican party, no matter how unreasonable that promise is. I’d bet dollars to donuts that Donald Trump has paid for more abortions than Hillary Clinton has, but hypocrisy on the issue doesn’t much  matter when the goal is to control what other people do, not to elect leaders who reflect pro-life values in their personal lives.

See the source imageAbove, unintended pregnancy rates are significantly higher among poor women, as is abortion. About 1 in 2 pregnancies in the US is unintended, and about 1 in 2 of those ends in abortion. Reducing poverty is one way to reduce abortion without ever having to mount a court challenge or secure a pro-life majority on the Supreme Court. And we’d be improving the lives of women and children to boot. 

Abortion is an important and serious issue. It brings together concerns about children, economics, families, health care, privacy rights, race and ethnicity, religion, and women’s rights. One out of four viable pregnancies end in abortion, with higher rates in some communities. By age 45, about 35% of American women will have terminated a pregnancy. (About 13% of these will be born-again or evangelical women and 22% will be Catholics.) Whether you think abortion is violence against the most innocent of people or a safe and relatively simple medical procedure, those numbers are large. Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures done in the US. About twice as many women get an abortion each year as men who get a vasectomy. In fact, in some reporting years, they have been more common than the top 10 most common operating room procedures. For each person you know who had a hip replacement last year, you probably know two who had abortions. The sheer ubiquity of the procedure means that we need to take it seriously.

But throwing up “But what about abortion?” when the topic is systemic racism or climate change or immigrant children being used as political pawns isn’t taking it seriously. It’s letting it serve as a an excuse for inaction for other, also important concerns, and, worse, as an excuse for not doing the work we know would support women in avoiding unwanted pregnancy and keeping their families out of poverty.





BHM Celebration of Art: Fred Eversley’s _Pale Lens_

This month, 606 is honoring Black History by sharing art by black artists. We’ve invited artists, art historians, curators, archivists, and others with expertise in art to share their favorite pieces of art by black artists around the globe. If you find your life enriched by this blog series, say “thank you” by buying art from a black artist, visiting a museum, asking your local art museum to include more black artists, donating to an art scholarship for students of color, asking your library to stock more books on black art, dropping off some art supplies at your local community center or daycare or senior center, or donating art by artists of color to your local school, community center, or house of worship. 

Today, we thank Tyler Allen, graduate intern with the Spencer Museum of Art, located at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, for sharing one of her favorite pieces from the Spencer. If you like it, stop by the Spencer for more. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated. 



Pale lens 2
Photo Courtesy: Andy White/KU Marketing Communications

Fred Eversley, a Black intellectual, sculptor, and trained engineer, is one of the few Black artists whose work is highlighted and displayed at the University of Kansas’ Spencer Museum of Art. His work Pale Lens (1970) is one of many pieces where Eversley experiments with optical polyester sculpture forms. In Pale Lens, Eversley investigates the optical principles of physics and properties of lenses and mirrors. Being drawn to the geometric structure of the work itself, Eversley tantalizes his viewers through optical illusion, as he challenges viewers’ perception in this three dimensional work of art.


Pale lens 1
Photo Courtesy: Andy White/KU Marketing Communications

Fred Eversley, a Brooklyn, New York native, received his degree in Electrical Engineering from what is now known as Carnegie Mellon University. He began his work and experimentation as a sculptor in 1970 after moving to Los Angeles. His strong interest in “art informed by science and technology” would lead him to become a prominent international artist. Just a few of his many accomplishments include being featured in over 200 exhibitions at various museums, galleries, and art festivals; being awarded 1st prize sculpture at the Biennale Internazionale Dell’ Arte Contemporanea di Firenze in Florence, Italy; and lastly, being represented in the permanent collection of 35 museums. Today, Eversley resides in California, and he maintains studios in both California and New York.

Pale Lens can be viewed at the Spencer Museum of Art in the Forms of Thought Gallery.

Although the month of February solidifies a time for Black history to be celebrated, recognized, and remembered, I would encourage everyone to spend more time beyond that, to further what they know or what they think they know about Black History. Living in a world where there is a constant misconception about identities of color, we must take it upon ourselves to expand our knowledge in order to appreciate one another in this space.

Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history. -Carter G. Woodson


About the Author:

Tyler AllenTyler Allen is a first-year master student at the University of Kansas, and a graduate intern at the Spencer Museum of Art. She is working to obtain a dual master degree from the departments of African and African American Studies and Museum Studies. Her research interests include Hip-Hop, Black communities and culture, and social justice.




You can find our first post in this series, art historian Stefanie Snider’s commentary on Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s America is Black here. 








Low Expectations is No Excuse for Hate

I once went to hear a lecture from a renowned historian of race. A key point in his lecture was that we cannot expect historical figures to do better than their conditions would permit them to do.

On the one hand, I get it: This helps us remember not to be too rosy about the people of the past. Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, but he would just as rather have not, if he could have saved the union by preserving slavery. And he oversaw westward expansion in ways that were disastrous to Plains nations. Oh, and he supported the idea of shipping ex-slaves to British colonies in Guyana and Belize in order to get them away from white Americans. We don’t want to forget that even Lincoln was a man of his times, a leader whose thinking, even when it was shrewd, was shaped by the evils of white supremacy.

On the other hand, I don’t accept the idea that we should have such low expectations. When we dismiss bigoted behaviors as “the way things were back then,” we’re ignoring the fact that, even back then, lots of people were objecting to “the way things were.” For example, slaves and indigenous Americans. They were objecting, clearly and loudly and for hundreds of years. White leaders took their objections so seriously that they created systems of violent oppression to make sure that the objections would not gain traction. But by the time you need to create slave patrols and sponsor Indian Wars, you understand that there are, uh, critics of your line of thinking.

Above, The Righteous and the Wise, and their Works are in the Hand of God by Stephen Townes. If you think that there were not people in the past arguing against racism, you were not listening.

“It was a different time and place” isn’t a sufficient explanation for dressing in blackface, as I think Virginia’s Governor Northam is figuring out. When he posed in a photo that included a white man in blackface and another wearing a Klansman’s hood (Where did that Klan robe come from? The photo from his medical school yearbook isn’t just a snapshot of a costume party but a peek into his family or friendship history. Know who doesn’t have access to a Klan robe? Decent human beings.), it wouldn’t have mattered if it were the 1980s or the 1880s: in either century, white people wearing blackface was a form of mockery and white people wearing Klan robes was a sign of racial terrorism. There is no point in history when either of these were anything other than hateful; the point of them was to be hateful, always.

I understand the appeal of this excuse making. Blaming “the culture” is easier than recognizing our own agency in hurting others. And we must make space for people to change, of course, and encourage, recognize, and reward positive change. But we also have to admit that, all along the way, there have been critics of bigotry who we’ve actively tried to silence; we must elevate their stories.

If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.–Thomas Day, British abolitionist, making it very clear back in 1776 that there were white people who understood slavery to be wrong. 

This is hard, hard work.


I hate the circular firing squad that the Democratic Party can often become. At the same time, I am grateful that it has been Democratic leaders who have been so forceful in calling for Northam’s resignation. Republicans should, too, but it’s just about impossible for me to believe that they all collectively care about race so much; indeed, we just have to look at their speed in condemning Steve King of Iowa to understand their opposition to racism.


BHM Celebration of Art: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s _America is Black_ Mural, Oklahoma City, OK

This month, 606 is honoring Black History by sharing art by black artists. We’ve invited artists, art historians, curators, archivists, and others with expertise in art to share their favorite pieces of art by black artists around the globe. If you find your life enriched by this blog series, say “thank you” by buying art from a black artist, visiting a museum, asking your local art museum to include more black artists, donating to an art scholarship for students of color, asking your library to stock more books on black art, dropping off some art supplies at your local community center or daycare or senior center, or donating art by artists of color to your local school, community center, or house of worship. 

Today, we thank Dr. Stefanie Snider for introducing us to one of our new favorite pieces of art. If you like it, head to OKC for a larger exhibit featuring work by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. 



america is black

Fazlalizadeh and America is Black just after installation, November 27, 2016

america is black 2

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, America is Black, November 2016, Wheat-pasted paper mural, Oklahoma City, OK


Immediately following the US presidential election in November 2016, contemporary artist Tatyana Fazlalizedah created a new public artwork in her hometown of Oklahoma City, OK. Using drawn portraits and text, Fazlalizedah’s wheat-pasted paper mural used the artist’s tried-and-true media as it responded to the impending threat of the white-washing of the United States through a Donald Trump presidency. The mural’s text read: “America is Black. It is Native. It wears a hijab. It is a Spanish speaking tongue. It is migrant. It is a woman. It is here has been here and it’s not going anywhere.” The America Is Black mural featured portraits of people of color, including Fazlalizedah’s mother. Fazlalizedah located the mural in Oklahoma City not simply for its personal significance, but also to actively engage with a primarily white city, state, and region that has a history of social conservativism and Republican voting since at least the 1960s; in 2016, more than 65% of those voting in the state selected Trump as their choice for president.

Prior to this artwork, Fazlalizedah was known for her series Stop Telling Women to Smile (STWS). Pasted on walls internationally since 2012, Stop Telling Women to Smile brought art to the same streets on which women are regularly harassed based on clothing choice, gender expression, sexuality, race, religion, and more. She showed solidarity with harassment survivors, elevating their voices and visages, while shaming their abusers with larger-than-life images and texts. In America Is Black, Fazlalizedah once again activated the public sphere in order to empower and promote populations who, despite their marginalization in US history and politics, form the backbone on which US society is based.

Fazlalizedah’s America Is Black questioned white supremacist and nationalist rhetoric by insisting on the centrality of people of color to the formation and formulation of the United States of America. During the 2016 presidential election cycle, and in the aftermath of the election, nationalistic propaganda of the state has sought to actively erase people of color and non-Christians from definitions of US citizenship. Actions that target new or returning immigrants to the United States, such as the threat of building a longer, more substantial wall on the US/ Mexico border; the so-called “Muslim bans” aimed at preventing travelers from countries with significant Islamic populations from entering the US; and the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy demonstrate the current administration’s commitment to a white supremacist hegemonic US state. While Trump and his supporters in the government seem intent on making America white “again,” Fazlalizedah’s America Is Black project argues that the US as a purely white Christian state is, and always has been, a myth rather than a reality. In America is Black, the artist exposes the language and imagery propagated by socially conservative groups, the US president, and other government officials who wish to erase the country’s history as a colonizing nation, and lays bare the stakes involved in anti-racist resistance work by people of color in the US today.

America is Black features four pencil-drawn figures in black and grey on a white background. The text is in capital letters to the left of the portraits, some words in bold, and in multiple-sized fonts. Each portrait is a person of color; three appear to be women and one a man. Each figure is looking out from their space, considering us rather carefully while we study them. Although we are not given the specific names of these people, the drawings are individualized portraits blown up to an oversized scale, as are most of Fazlalizadeh’s figural works. The largest figure, on the left of this group, is Fazlalizadeh’s mother; the artist, in describing the impetus for this mural, wrote: “I used a couple of recent drawings, one old drawing, and a drawing I did the day before installing this of my mother, to put together a diverse group of folks.” By incorporating an image of her mother, Fazlalizadeh makes obvious that the political is personal – and vice versa. Furthermore, by using her mother’s portrait as the focus of this mural, Fazlalizadeh showcases her roots as a Black woman. Fazlalizadeh’s reference to the collection of images she collaged together, both old and new, renders visible her long-term commitment to producing art for and about people of color. It visibly links the past and present, reiterating the message of the text: people of color, especially women, have long been a mainstay of the US population and they are not going anywhere, despite the goals of the new federal administration. In one message, Fazlalizadeh vividly uplifts Black, Indigenous, Muslim, and immigrant people and starkly challenges white supremacist and misogynist dominant culture.

Upon installing this mural Fazlalizadeh had hoped to provoke conversations, but also knew that not all responses to the work would be supportive or positive. Moreover, in writing about the artwork, she recognized its inherent ephemerality as a wheat-pasted public mural and expressed her desire to see what physical reactions might come about in response to the work as well. While no vandalism of the mural was reported, it was taken down by officials of the Oklahoma City government in March of 2017 because it had not gone through the “proper” channels for approval according to the city’s policies. Fazlalizadeh had had permission to locate the mural where it was placed from the building’s owner, but according to Oklahoma City law, artists must go through a proposal process in order for the Oklahoma City Arts Commission, made up of 15 members, 14 of whom are white, and 11 of whom are men, to determine “aesthetic quality, design integrity and […] that a mural is appropriate to its setting, architecture, and [the] social context” in which it is placed. In response, Fazlalizadeh wrote, “My mural is 100% not for them. I’m going to submit a proposal. For this mural, and for another mural project I want to develop in OKC. But I’m already discouraged based on that group of commissioners, being a black woman artist, and who/what my art represents. This is why ‘diversity’ is not only important in the work and faces we get to see – it needs to be behind the scenes. Who is in the room making the decisions. Who is deciding what is a ‘quality aesthetic’.”  The removal of America is Black proves the point Fazlalizadeh made with the mural: white supremacism and xenophobia don’t simply overlook, but actively erase, people of color and their concerns through nationalistic rhetoric and public policy.

Fazlalizadeh has continued her work to bring visual recognition to people of color in the US and in 2019 will have a solo exhibition called Tatyana Fazlalizadeh: Oklahoma is Black at the Oklahoma Contemporary museum in Oklahoma City.

SSnider.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Stefanie Snider, PhD. She is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, MI. Her research and teaching focuses on contemporary visual representations by, for, and about marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+, fat, and disabled people. 


Project Blitz: Bringing Theocracy to the States

In the wake of the disastrous 2016 presidential elections, some of us hunkered down to work where we thought we could be more effective: the states. The midterm elections proved that red states could be inched, if not pushed, left. But while some states band together to live up to the goals of the Paris Climate Accord and work to provide parental leave, others are considering legislation that capitalizes on the sense of Christian victimhood that Trump has tapped into.

Project Blitz, a conservative Christian playbook written by rightwing Christians, delivers model legislation to state lawmakers. It includes:

  1. “In God We Trust” bills that would mandate the display of this phrase in public schools, government buildings, and police cars.
  2. Bills mandating that public schools offer Christian Bible-study classes. (The sponsor of the Florida bill is a self-proclaimed exorcist.)
  3. A bill allowing teachers to display the 10 Commandments.
  4. “Religious Freedom” bills that would allow business to refuse to serve LGBTQ+ people on religious grounds
  5. Bills to allow foster care organizations to refuse to work with any non-Christians without losing federal funding

See the source imageThink that a display of the 10 Commandments on taxpayer-funded property is no big deal? That’s step 1 in a larger plan to disallow Jewish, Muslim, and atheist people from being foster parents. 

These are just some of the 75+ bills generated from Project Blitz that have been put forward in 20 states since Trump’s inauguration. Project Blitz works to push small bills that are mostly symbolic, but the larger goal is “to reclaim and properly define the narrative” of “the free exercise of traditional Judeo-Christian values and beliefs in the public square”–that is, theocracy.