Scholars Gather for Wash. Hate Conference

SPOKANE, Wash. — Scholars who want to know why people hate are gathering at Gonzaga University in hopes of shaping a new academic discipline to study a prime motivator of people’s behavior.

“Hatred is the most destructive aspect of human history,” said Ken Stern, an organizer of the conference and the American Jewish Committee’s expert on anti-Semitism.

Hate is not a new problem nor is it confined to one region, he said. And too little is known about why people are disposed to hate others.

“It impacts all aspects of our lives, and is not just a matter of a hate group here, a discriminatory practice there,” he said.

The three-day conference, which began Thursday, is sponsored by the Gonzaga Institute for Action Against Hate and will feature tolerance groups, legal experts and others. Southern Poverty Law Center co-founder Morris Dees will be a closing night speaker.

No members of hate groups are scheduled to speak nor have such groups registered for the conference, said Jerri Shepard, director of the Gonzaga institute.

The Northwest has become known in recent decades as a place where some hate groups feel comfortable to operate, and Shepard said that makes it a good place for the conference.

“It’s more out in the open here than in a lot of other places,” Shepard said. The existence of hate groups locally has also spurred people to work to oppose them, she said.

The Gonzaga Institute for Action Against Hate publishes the “Journal of Hate Studies.” The institute was founded in 1997 after black law students were targets of racist and sometimes threatening mail and phone calls.

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