“We have to stand united against hate-fueled violence,” President Biden said September 15 as he gathered community, government and faith leaders at the White House to build bridges and address hate and division.
The Biden-Harris administration’s United We Stand Summit was held on the 59th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four children and wounded a dozen other people.
That attack, intended to deter African Americans’ push for civil rights, outraged the country and less than a year later spurred passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Since then, several U.S. cities, including Charlottesville, Virginia; Orlando, Florida; Pittsburgh; Buffalo, New York; and Atlanta, have suffered violence at the hands of white supremacists and bigots who targeted people because of their faith, color or sexuality.
Vice President Harris told the summit that Americans must again “meet division with unity” to stop hate-fueled violence. “We have seen our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones attacked simply because of who they are or where they pray,” she said.
“Today, we must rededicate to joining together to help our communities prevent, respond, and recover from acts of hateful violence,” she said.
New efforts to foster unity
At the summit, Biden announced a new White House initiative to address hate-motivated violence that will bring federal resources and engage with religious and community leaders, businesses, nonprofits and others to prevent violence, reduce division and foster unity.
“There are core values that should bring us together as Americans,” Biden said. “And one of them is standing together against hate, racism, bigotry, and violence.”
New federal efforts will:
- Support violence prevention programs, including with $20 million in Department of Homeland Security grants.
- Strengthen coordination between law enforcement and communities to increase hate crime reporting and improve trust.
- Improve resilience against efforts to foment violence online, including through $69 million from the Telecommunications and Information Administration for digital literacy and online skills training.
- Expand national service and volunteerism to unite people in common purpose.
Religious and business leaders and advocates who are working to reduce hate and division in their communities also pledged to take the following steps:
- A bipartisan group of former White House officials is launching Dignity.us to foster dialogue and find solutions to hate-fueled violence.
- The philanthropic group New Pluralists is mobilizing $1 billion in investments in programs that foster unity among Americans of different backgrounds.
- Interfaith America, YMCA, Habitat for Humanity and other service groups are training 10,000 Americans to build bridges among people in their communities.
Survivors of hate-fueled violence, who are from diverse backgrounds, attended the summit and Biden commended their courage and resolve in addressing a challenge that has long plagued the country.
“My fellow Americans, we remain in the battle for the soul of our nation,” Biden said. “When I look around at all of you here today, I know we’ll win that battle.”