2016 has been a difficult year for many of us. On a global scale, we’ve witnessed a rise in nationalism that is leading to a distrust of minorities, even as nations around the world are becoming more diverse.
And it’s a problem that we’ve seen growing in the US, following years of festering racial tensions, continuing inequalities and a recent spike in hate crimes being reported across the country. But it’s one that most Americans don’t acknowledge, and don’t talk about.
I’ve lived abroad for many years, and so am somewhat removed from all of this. I read about it on the news, of course, but observe from a distance. Here in Europe we’ve been focusing a lot on the Syrian refugee crisis, the conflict in Ukraine and Brexit.
But more than ever, my attention has turned towards home. I am shocked and saddened by all of the reports of hate crimes being committed in the US. This isn’t the America I knew, or the America I dream of showing my sons.
Reaction to Action
My very visceral reaction made me realize that now was the time to act.
I have worked for the last ten years in peacebuilding, human rights and international criminal law. I have seen the direct effects of how hatred and division in communities can lead to conflict, crimes against humanity and human rights violations. I’m not suggesting that could or would happen in the US, but I do know from experience that small ruptures in the fabric of our society can grow exponentially and violently, seemingly overnight.
At JustPeace Labs, I’ve merged two of my passions into one effort – using technology to support sustainable peace and development across the globe. This time, I turned my attention towards home and got to work.
Data = Knowledge; Knowledge = Power
With the right technology, we can generate better and more reliable data tracking hate incidents. With the right data, we can take positive action to combat hate in our communities. The police can see trends developing and prevent hate crimes, we can pursue accountability for perpetrators and we can advocate for a more inclusive and just society.
So about three weeks ago, we started developing the HateTracker App and HateTracker.org. It has been a wildly busy time, but I’ve been motivated and energized by the potential of this program (and, I have to say, by the amazing talent and dedication of my team, who are all contributing their limited free time and efforts pro bono). On a personal level, it feels good to take action. On a professional level, I know that we are headed in the right direction to combat hate in the United States.
I know we’re not the only ones working on hate crimes in the US, but I hope that the data generated by our app can make a lasting contribution to the effort to reveal and overcome hate in our country. Every step matters, and I’m thrilled to be on this path.