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Community Responders Network combats bias in midstate

Written by Craig Layne, Morning Edition Host/Reporter | May 28, 2013 11:58 AM
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(Harrisburg) -- A group that responds to bias and hate crimes is warning racism and discrimination are legitimate concerns in the midstate.

The Community Responders Network brings together leaders of several regional groups to provide guidance for dealing with the impact of intolerance.

YWCA of Greater Harrisburg Executive Director Tina Nixon says the organization has its roots in a 2008 incident when someone received an anti-Muslim DVD.

"The conversation surrounded, how do we respond to this as a community," Nixon remembers. "What other people can we bring to the table, knowing we all have different circles of influence? By bringing everyone together to have a very deliberate response to hate crimes, we let individuals know that we're all in this together."

Nixon says the network has put together a manual on how to respond to incidents of bias based on race, background, faith or sexual orientation.

She says supporting and counseling victims months or even years after an incident is often-overlooked and an important part of the healing process.

Religion and Society Center Executive Director and Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania President Rabbi Carl Choper says the group also deals with incidents that aren't necessarily criminal.

"There are also what we call hate incidents," Choper explains. "Those are acts of hate, emotional attacks, verbal attacks, things that do not violate the law."

Choper says communities can be vulnerable to discrimination or hate when no one will speak out against bias.

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