Beyond tolerance

Executive director of Capital Unity Council

While terrorism may come in all shapes and sizes, it is always distinguished by one inevitable characteristic: hatred. Hatred has recently reared its ugly head once again as a series of crimes in local communities, apparently, in reaction to the Middle East conflict. The time is past for promoting only “tolerance.” We need to urge and strive for acceptance.

This is the mission of the Capital Unity Council (CUC), a group that literally arose from the ashes. It was formed in June 1999 after the arson of three Sacramento-area synagogues and a rash of hate crimes—including the murder of a gay couple in Redding and the fire-bombings of a women’s clinic and a rural legal assistance clinic.

This nonprofit organization’s goal is to prevent crimes and to eliminate social antagonism, based on human hatred, intolerance and ignorance. The CUC’s approach to issues of intolerance is one of prevention more than reaction. Its principal assets include access to leadership, an abiding commitment to social justice and the capability to serve as a reliable referral source in the resolution of conflicts and support for victims of hate. The CUC’s menu of activities, for adults and youth alike, includes, among other efforts: Recruiting and training community members for volunteer-driven unity teams of individuals from schools, workplace, neighborhood groups and community-based organizations that share a common interest in ending hatred and bigotry by fostering respect—for everyone—through dialogue.

Rotating exhibits: The CUC is working to bring exhibits to the region to enhance the visibility of traditionally underrepresented groups that experience oppression and discrimination. Examples would be the homeless, the disabled and those who are victimized due to issues of sexual orientation or gender identity.

As the CUC has begun to establish itself as a central resource and clearinghouse for information, materials and referrals in the campaign against intolerance, its founders and staff are planning to build, near the state Capitol complex, the state’s first Unity Center. This institution will include a library and research center as well as exhibits on broad-based social issues. It will provide a venue for expanding appreciation of the diverse cultural and performing arts and demonstrate how California’s heritage and history were formed and shaped by many cultures.

The future is ours to lose. We need to stand up and recognize that hatred is a bud that’s nurtured by apathy until it blossoms into terrorism.