In Portland publication, Outreach Director Lecia Brooks explains how emboldened white supremacists often "hide in plain sight"

Lecia Brooks, our Director of Outreach here at the Southern Poverty Law Center, recently spoke with Jared Paben of Street Roots about the uptick in hate and bias incidents, inflammatory rhetoric, and emboldened racists in the past year, especially since the election. Though the interview covers a multitude of issues. the particular focus is on the Portland train attack that happened last month, when a man named Jeremy Joseph Christian stabbed three people (two fatally) who stood up to him while he was harassing two teenage girls with anti-Muslim and racist slurs. When asked about how one reconciles the image of Portland as a "tolerant, liberal bulwark against the rising tide of hate" and the reality of a large prevalence of local hate crimes since the election, Lecia responded:

Portland has made great strides in moving toward a more progressive side. I think that, generationally, you do have a large majority of progressive liberals in the area who are definitely against hate and bias. But, as I mentioned, the history goes pretty deep.... A number of adherents of the ideology moved from the South to the Pacific Northwest. As you know, the Pacific Northwest is very mono-racial. Portland is 70 percent white population. So what you find in those instances is that, oftentimes, white supremacists can hide in plain sight.

She then goes on to discuss free speech issues, the impact of hateful rhetoric and shifting demographics on incidents like these, and the work of the SPLC. The interview ends with a final exhortation, as Lecia calls on people to stand together:

We certainly don’t want to encourage people to get in harm’s way, but we also do want people to stand up against hate. And if we do it together, united, we have a great chance of pushing back. We have to push back. We cannot allow hateful violence and rhetoric to become normalized. We need to marginalize people who are espousing these beliefs and not give them any credence.

Street Roots is a weekly publication based in Portland, OR, and the full article and interview can be found here.