Jessica Anderson wants you to know there is something you can do to fight hate speech on social media.
“Sponsor a racist,” the Chapel Hill Town Council member posted this week on her official Facebook page.
The #donateagainsthate campaign asks people to make a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center or their favorite organization in the name of someone who posts racist or hateful comments on Facebook or another social media site.
Anderson said she got the idea after getting “hate-filled comments” in response to her earlier Facebook post about Silent Sam, the Confederate monument on UNC’s campus in Chapel Hill. It’s inspired by a campaign that residents of Wunsiedel, Germany, launched in 2014, she said.
Neo-Nazis had marched in Wunsiedel every Aug. 17 for many years, despite efforts to ban them, in honor of Adolf Hitler’s once-top deputy, Rudolf Hess, who was buried in the town’s cemetery. Hess died on Aug. 17, 1987. His body was exhumed and cremated in 2011 at his family’s behest.
But the march continued, and the town’s residents and businesses came up with the plan to make it an “involuntary walkathon” in 2014, donating 10 euros to a nongovernmental agency fighting extremism for every meter the neo-Nazis marched.
Anderson said she doesn’t expect her campaign to change anyone’s mind.
“I think it’s a great way of making it feel positive and a way of bringing people together who know that it’s not OK,” she said. “It’s a way of making light of a serious situation while still doing some good.”
Her Facebook post had raised at least $300 as of Friday, but she doesn’t know how much others who shared her post may have raised, Anderson said. Donations can be for $1, $25 or more, she said, and she’s trying to find a way to make it easier for people to participate.
Someone did post a meme asking if taking down statues has made anyone’s life better and another person referred to her with a slur, she said. But the people who have had donations made in their name have been “totally silent,” she said.
“I think their hope is to not have more donations made in their name,” Anderson said.
A Durham resident launched a similar, short-lived campaign Aug. 18 when a Klan march was rumored in downtown Durham.
Adam Haile said he heard about the expected march and was also inspired by Wunsiedel. He asked friends on Facebook and Twitter to donate a set amount to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s fight against hate groups for every Klan member who marched. The Klan didn’t show up, but Haile’s campaign raised $3,433 in pledges from 25 people, he said.
“I’m proud of my town. I’m proud of our reaction to the (rumored Klan march),” Haile said said. “I like the idea of trying to turn this into something other than a hateful event.”