Monday, June 30, 2008

Twenty-Five Members Of The Keystone State Skinheads Attend NAACP Diversity Forum In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Members of the Keystone State Skinheads (KSS) attended a diversity forum hosted by the Wilkes-Barre chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Luzerne County Diversity Commission. Entitled “A New Day in Luzerne County: Building on the Strength of our Diversity,” it was organized in response to two recent incidents, according to NAACP Chapter President Ron Felton. Full story reported by the Hazleton (PA) Standard-Speaker and the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader. Also posted on Discussed on Stormfront and the Vanguard News Network Forum. Pictured above left, KSS Director Steve Smith.

See previous posts about the KSS from January 22nd, May 17th, and May 21st.

Earlier this year, members of the Keystone State Skinheads posted fliers in neighborhoods from Pittston to Shickshinny. The fliers featured a photograph of a black man with a gun, and stated that residents should take back their neighborhoods from Philadelphia and New York drug dealers and gang members.

However, the KSS had nothing to do with the other incident. Nora Rynkiewicz, 18, of Factoryville, was charged with spray-painting anti-Semitic graffiti on the doors of the Ohav Zedek synagogue on South Franklin Street in March.

Although previously told they couldn’t speak at the forum, about 25 KSS members were among the approximately 75 people (the Times-Leader reported 90 people) who attended. “We wanted to put a face behind the fliers,” KSS member Keith Carney explained.

He and KSS Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Regional Director Steve Smith said they tried to get people to see that some of the things said about the group have been distorted. White supremacist groups don’t want to recruit impressionable kids and commit acts of violence — they want people with “a good head on their shoulders” and don’t believe violence solves anything. “We just want an open dialogue on race, and to have a safe community for our families,” Smith said.

City police and Wilkes University security guards were stationed at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts where the forum took place, but they didn’t need to intervene. KSS members were mostly quiet during presentations by Harrisburg-based officials: Ann Van Dyke, an investigator for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC); Harold Dunbar, assistant deputy attorney general in the Civil Rights section; and Martin Kearney, also of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Dunbar defined hate crimes and also talked about institutional vandalism, such as the defilement of Ohav Zedek. Dunbar also said that 59 percent of hate-crime offenders are 11- to 20-year-old white males, and that 79 percent of victims are 21 years old or younger.

Van Dyke said Pennsylvania is in the middle of a rapid demographic change. “In Luzerne County, the hate crimes and other bias incidents are not unusual. They’re an egregious sign of the times,” Van Dyke said. “It’s fear of difference, and it’s something we all need to own.” According to the FBI’s statistics supplied to the PHRC, between the years 2000 and 2005 Luzerne County saw a 5 percent decrease in the white population, while it saw an increase of 22 percent in the Asian population; 20 to 40 percent increase among African-Americans; and a 100 percent increase in the Latino population.

Whenever there is change, there is conflict, which can tear communities apart. But if its members move beyond fear, diversity can be a community’s strength, Van Dyke continued. She urged people to examine their prejudices: how they developed and how to get rid of them. “Whether it’s based on skin color or tattoos, watch your automatic assumptions,” she said.

During a question-and-answer session, some of the discussion turned heated when Denise Barber of Bethlehem questioned the PHRC speakers on their statistics, stating she had slightly higher numbers on violent crimes committed by black males. “You better check your facts,” Barber said. “The Constitution and Bill of Rights were written in English,” she said, in response to the influx of non-English speaking citizens.

The atmosphere grew charged again when KSS members spoke up. Carney said he thought fear is based on truth instead of ignorance — it’s not fear of change, but fear of what people are bringing in. He asked the speakers if they recognized a correlation between “the growing crime problem and the growing non-white population coming into our area.”

No,” Dunbar tersely replied. [Ed. Note: Harold Dunbar is black, so his reply should not be a surprise.]

KSS members participated peacefully in an exercise in which the audience was divided into four groups to identify the region’s strengths, challenges and solutions. They found Northeastern Pennsylvania’s strengths include a strong work ethic, residents’ dedication to family and religion, colleges and universities, a sense of community and the ability to overcome adversity. Challenges include drug abuse, crime, the changing economic situation and a resistance to change.

And an unidentified KSS member summed it up effectively. “If I had it my way, every culture would celebrate their culture,” said one KSS member, “…and not be considered racist.”

Commentary: The Hazleton Standard-Speaker seemed almost disappointed that the KSS were well-behaved; the KSS didn't cater to their stereotype of skinheads.

This is superb activism. I haven't seen this type of consistent, productive, mainstream-oriented pro-white activism since Glenn Miller was leading his White Patriot Party through North Carolina. These folks exemplify how it should be done, and, at the same time, are working hard to eradicate negative biases and stereotypes about white nationalism.

1 comment:

Old Blue said...

Excellent report on a positive event!