Coffee and Conversation: Combating hate crimes

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – In an effort to promote diversity and inclusion, the city of East Lansing hosted its second “Coffee and Conversation” event this afternoon.

Today’s topic of discussion was hate crimes.

“It’s just atrocious I think that someone is victimized because of the characteristic that separates them from someone else,” said Pat Cannon, a member of the East Lansing Human Relations Commission.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there are more than 1,000 hate groups across the country, including 31 in Michigan. That’s a 30 percent increase over previous years.

Cannon is a member of the East Lansing Human Relations Commission. He’s also blind.

He says while he’s never experienced a hate crime himself, his disability helps him relate to those who have.

“I do experience discrimination, but it’s usually based on not knowing or misunderstanding at what a disability is, what a blindness is and what it is not,” said Cannon.

“The idea here, the goal is to just get people talking and get the ball rolling and the communication going,” said Daniel Baum, the former chair of the Human Relations Commission.

Baum led today’s Coffee and Conversation at Expresso Royale on Lake Lansing Road.

“Rather than just having those reactive legal mechanisms in place, which are important, we want to go from the front end like you said, from being proactive from talking about why do they exist,” said Baum.

He hopes by having these discussions, the city will move forward in a more positive direction.

“You got to start somewhere and we think this is a good opportunity for community members and the HRC which is, you know, this is our arena. This is the beginning and hopefully it will run from here,” said Baum.

The next part of the series is set to take place on September 22nd at Blue Owl Coffee in East Lansing.

The group will discuss issues within the LGBTQ+ community.

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