Workshop to address confronting white nationalism

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A workshop was held at Sinai Temple Thursday night on how to identify and prevent the indoctrination of children by white nationalists.

The keynote speaker, Nora Flanagan, is a Chicago Public Schools Teacher. She spoke about her experiences confronting issues such as racist graffiti in school bathrooms to students flashing neo-Nazi hand signals.

“White nationalist extremism doesn’t look or recruit the way it used to,” Flanagan said. “It’s not neo-Nazi skinheads, as much as it is innocuous-sounding podcasters, YouTubers and organizations rooted in patriotism or that mock sensitivity.”

Flanagan has written a toolkit, “Confronting White Nationalism in Schools,” which the Southern Poverty Law Center has distributed nationally.

Local teachers attended the workshop, including Ann Quackenbush. She teaches 5th grade.

“I feel like teaching 10 and 11-year-olds – I feel like that’s a point where they’re more active on social media,” Quackenbush said. “They might become exposed to some things that maybe they don’t understand is white nationalist.”

The workshop, which is cosponsored by the Social Action Committee, is the second in Bend the Arc’s series called “Safety through Solidarity: Building Hate-Free Communities.” Organizer Terry Maher said he hopes the workshop’s message is heard loud and clear.

“We certainly want to make sure that Champaign-Urbana doesn’t become the next name in a long line after Charlottesville and Pittsburgh and Poway and Gilroy and El Paso,” Maher said. “We don’t want that to happen in Champaign-Urbana.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center said it tracked 1,020 white nationalist hate groups in 2018, the most it’s counted since 2011. In Illinois, it counted 31 groups in 2018, including eight statewide groups.

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