Race, religion figure in GU hate studies conference
Several high-profile experts in combating hate will address racism, violence based on religion and similar topics at a Gonzaga University-sponsored conference this week.
The Second International Conference on Hate Studies will open less than three months after a bomb was left along the route of Spokane’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. The event, however, was planned long before the bomb incident, said Jim Mohr, president of the board of the Gonzaga University Institute for Hate Studies.
“There isn’t a specific spot (about the bomb) on the agenda per se, but I’m sure that people from the area will probably mention it and include it in their talks,” Mohr said.
The keynote speaker will be Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor, peace activist and father of three daughters who were killed when an Israeli tank fired into his family’s home in Gaza in 2009. Abuelaish has written a book, published this year in the United States, called “I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey.”
Other speakers include Ken Stern, the American Jewish Committee’s specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism, and Charlene Teters, a professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., a founding board member of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media and a Spokane Tribe member.
The conference starts Wednesday and ends Saturday at Northern Quest Casino and Resort in Airway Heights. About 125 academics, students and human rights activists have signed up to attend the event, which costs $199 for students and up to $289 for adults. For information on registering, visit guweb2. gonzaga.edu/againsthate/conference2011.htm.
James Wynecoop, executive director of public safety and chief of police of the Kalispel Tribe, said security will be tight, considering the bomb found in Spokane in January. He said he will be in contact with the FBI and Airway Heights police about the conference.
He said Kalispel tribal police officers will be on site and may be stationed within the conference. He said the casino has more security than most locations.
“We have one of the best surveillance systems in the state,” he said.
The first conference on hate was held in 2004. About 70 people attended, said Mohr, who is the student achievement director for the Community Colleges of Spokane’s Institute for Extended Learning.
Mohr said hate studies is the examination of “the human capacity to define, then dehumanize or demonize” other people. The program is working to create a program that would allow Gonzaga students to earn a minor in the field.
“In a multicultural society like ours, there isn’t room for hate,” Mohr said.
Bobbie League, an institute board member and the planned giving officer for the Spokane Guilds’ School and Neuromuscular Center, said Gonzaga is a pioneer in the field.
“We have to be willing to stand and walk alongside people who experience hate in their communities,” League said.