The aftermath of violence and death in Charlottesville, Virginia, left many people wondering why the U.S. struggles to escape racism and division. For a local non-profit called HateBrakers, Charlottesville is an opportunity to start a dialogue and be part of the solution.
“I think we’ve got a national trauma right now that’s touching all of us,” said Susan Balk, the founder of HateBrakers.
Balk founded HateBrakers five years ago to have conversations about bullying, racism and the violence that’s frequently a by-product of those issues. The non-profit works with the public, students and educators to find ways to stop incidents of hate.
“There’s always a percentage of people for whom that blast of hate, that trauma of hate becomes a springboard to fix the world,” said Balk, “and I guess we’re facilitators of that process.”
University of Missouri-St. Louis anthropology major Nate Oatis handles outreach and development for HateBrakers.
“HateBrakers’ mission is to include everyone in the conversation. We want to understand why you feel marginalized, why you feel oppressed so we can better understand how to solve these issues that are plaguing us as a nation,” said Oatis.
When it comes to having an impact, HateBrakers steers away from placing blame. Instead, one of the group’s strategies is to spotlight people who have become healers, role models, and leaders when it comes to combating hate.
“How do we help reach the solutions? That’s why I do it, to help reach solutions,” said Balk.
Easier said than done when is feels like solutions for racism and white supremacy will be difficult to come by.
“Are we going to wipe out hatred in my lifetime or the lifetime of these kids we see on the evening news? I don’t know,” said Balk. “Denouncing is too easy, but maybe it’s a beginning. And I want to know what’s going to happen after the denouncing.”