By Brenda Owen

Daily Journal

The best way to fight the rise in hate crimes and the violence associated with them is to involve the whole community and its children, say Northeast Mississippi social workers.

Phyllis Camp, vice-chairman of the Northeast Mississippi Program Unit of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), said during March, which is National Social Work Month, the NASW embarks on a public service campaign each year to foster understanding of the social work profession by focusing on issues bearing on the well-being of the American people.

This year’s campaign, along with the previous ones on stopping violence, is based on social workers’ redefinition of violence.

“Real violence includes not just punishable crimes but also violence done to people by institutions, by a culture of violence, and by a lack of development opportunities,” she said.

The campaign includes the idea that social workers help people understand the root causes of violence and solve problems without resorting to violence, Camp said.

The NASW has developed a poster and brochure, the third in a series, that teaches junior high school age children that name calling, ridiculing others, and graffiti can foster hate and resentment that often escalates into hate crimes.

This year’s theme, “Hate Crimes, Not in My Life, No Way!” is aimed primarily at junior high school aged children and is designed to lead them to an understanding of the way in which seemingly harmless actions hate-motivated graffiti, name calling, ridicule are not only deeply harmful to their intended targets, but also can create a climate conducive to hate crimes, said social worker Angie Futato, rehabilitation case manager for North Mississippi Medical Center. She and other volunteers will be distributing and posting the brochures in several schools.

Robert H. Cohen, NASW executive director, said the nation has seen a rise in hate crimes recently. “We need to take collective action to stop this kind of un-American activity,” Cohen said. “We need to teach our children early that these things aren’t funny, that they can lead to real hurt of other people and create a climate in which hate and crimes associated with hate can flourish.”

Camp said the NASW already has produced and distributed two poster brochures, “100 Things You Can Do To Stop Violence,” aimed at adults and older youth, and “Stopping Violence Starts with Me,” directed at elementary school age children.

The “Hate Crimes” brochure includes a pledge against hate that children can take individually, in groups, or as part of adult-supervised activities.

“Violence can seem overwhelming and frightening to children if they think they are helpless and there is nothing they can do,” Camp said. “These materials get children involved and give them activities they can do. Children can contribute positively to a climate in which hate and its crimes are strongly disapproved of and condemned by the community.”

Click video to hear audio