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Commentary: We should use love to help the haters among us

Robin Washington is the editor of the Duluth News-Tribune, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper. He may be reached at: rwashington@

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm feeling good about the visit of the Supreme White Alliance to Duluth Saturday.

That's because it's an opportunity to tell them we love them. Or, if we're not all there yet, we want to love them.

The official local response to the group that unapologetically promotes white supremacy (it's part of their name) is to ignore them. Don't hold counter-protests and don't engage them. It's a simple and practical application of the 1960s adage "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came."

Another idea, suggested by Tim Wise at his recent University of Minnesota Duluth speech on white privilege, is to donate a dollar amount to an antiracism cause for every minute the SWA spends at its rally.

Those are tactics straight out of the nonviolence playbook, and examples illustrating that nonviolence isn't just refraining from using force, it's engaging in creative actions that directly address a particular conflict.

When segregation was illegally enforced on southern buses and trains after the Supreme Court outlawed it, civil rights activists created the idea of a freedom ride, with blacks and whites traveling side-by-side directly challenging the immoral convention. Segregation in transportation eventually collapsed.

Yet nonviolence isn't easy, nor without risks. The freedom riders endured beatings. And our country's conscience is indelibly etched with the images of fire hoses directed at children in Birmingham, Ala., and the church bombing in that same city that killed four little girls who weren't protesting anything. Those who did protest for the simple freedoms of equal accommodations and the right to vote stood their ground and took what came, left beaten and bloodied but disciplined with the vow not to answer violence with violence.

As hard as that is, it's nothing compared to the stronger resolve needed to achieve what I assume, and hope, is the ultimate goal of the Un-Fair antiracism campaign, and indeed all human relationships: A beloved community in which we all respect one another.

"Don't bother me with tactics," a young Rev. Martin Luther King said to the Rev. Glenn Smiley, a pacifist white Methodist minister who advised him during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56. "I want to know if I can apply nonviolence to my heart."

Both were ministers, but one needn't be Christian, or even religious, to practice loving your enemy or adversary. Really, think about it: Other than name calling, what harm have SWA members -- if there are any around here other than organizer Robert Hester of Superior - brought to anyone locally that we cannot find some goodness in them? While any threats or actual violence are criminal justice matters that should and must be handled by authorities, short of that, in even the most misguided souls, "there is always something left to love," as Lorraine Hansberry wrote in "A Raisin in the Sun."

Unless enough news breaks out to warrant my presence professionally, I won't be at the rally to offer hugs to the SWA and its fellow travelers, if they indeed show up. But I do send my love and respect to them, not just for their constitutional right to freely assemble, but as human beings who underneath the veneer of hate, still must have something left to love.

I hope you will, too.

Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at: rwashington@