For more than 30 years, Emmy-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and Al Jazeera America anchor Tony Harris has reported on senseless and vicious acts of violence, many fueled by intolerance, fear and hate. In the new one-hour special "Hate in America", Harris partners with The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit that has been tracking hate groups across the country since 1971, and NBC News’ award-winning production arm Peacock Productions, to examine the current realities of intolerance in America. According to the SPLC, more than 900 active hate groups currently exist across the United States, from neo-Nazis to anti-government militias, targeting entire classes of people for their race, religion, and sexuality, among other immutable characteristics. Largely propagated by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy and the diminishing white majority, that number has been on the rise for over a decade. Traveling to communities torn apart by violence, Harris pulls back the curtain on what drives modern-day hate, and comes face to face with its victims to examine "Hate in America", premiering on Monday, February 23 at 8/7c only on Investigation Discovery (ID).
“Tony Harris’ journey across the country in "Hate in America" is a heart-breaking reminder of the hate that still exists in our country today and, in fact, around the world as we learn of the horrors faced in the recent Sydney hostage situation or the Taliban attack on a Pakistani school,” said Henry Schleiff, Group President of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, American Heroes Channel, Discovery Fit & Health, and Discovery Family Channel. “Despite these setbacks in our pursuit for tolerance, Tony’s fervent investigation in "Hate in America" provides a glimmer of hope that there are undeniable signs of progress, people fighting back, and fighting for our future.”
"I remain deeply moved by the willingness of the people I met to share the stories of how their lives have been changed forever by hate and intolerance,” said Harris. “I can't imagine anyone being unaffected by these powerful testimonials."
"Hate in America" features the racially charged murder of a black father in Mississippi who died after being beaten and run over; the gruesome mass shooting of a Wisconsin Sikh congregation; and a brutal anti-gay attack on the streets of New York City. As Harris explores the motivations behind hate, he hears from a spectrum of advocates for change, including victims’ loved ones, community leaders, civil rights attorneys, SPLC’s founder Morris Dees, and even a former white supremacist – who now crusades for unity among the races.
Photo: Courtesy of Investigation Discovery
Harris’ journey starts in Jackson, Miss., a state with a long history of intolerance and violence, where in 2011, a group of white teenagers ran their car over father and auto plant worker James Craig Anderson in a random, race-driven hate crime. Eighteen-year-old Deryl Dedmon pleaded guilty to charges of capital murder and a hate crime, but Anderson’s family requested he be spared the death penalty because “executing James’ killers will not help balance the scales” of injustice. More than 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement ignited in the Deep South, Anderson’s murder makes Harris wonder if pockets of Mississippi are still fighting the sins of its past laid bare by the racially motivated and media-frenzied murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers. Harris sits down with Anderson’s partner, the Anderson family’s lawyer, and a former classmate of Dedmon, among others, to learn more about what some call Mississippi’s “heritage of hate.”
The explosions of violence that stem from it are not restricted to below the Mason-Dixon Line. In 2012, the Sikh community in Oak Creek, Wis., was shattered when Army veteran and white supremacist Wade Michael Page unleashed a torrent of bullets inside their sacred temple, shooting 10 people, killing six of them. In order to learn about the hate that spawned the attack and how the community fought back, Harris travels to Wisconsin to speak with survivors, law enforcement who responded to the chilling 911 calls, and to a former white supremacist who was a member of the same Skinhead group as Page but has since joined together with the Sikh community to advocate for unity.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the LGBT community is the group most victimized by violent hate crimes. On the streets of New York City, fashion design Nick Porto and his then-boyfriend Kevin were enjoying a carefree Sunday afternoon when a passer-by called them a homophobic slur. Porto confronted the man but was shoved to the ground and suddenly surrounded by a group of men, who pulled him into the street and beat him. He walked away with his life but, intent on not walking away from the issue of hate, Parto posted photos of his bloodied face on Instagram to share his story with the world. Less than two weeks later, a man named Mark Carson was shot and killed in an anti-gay attack in Greenwich Village, bringing to light a string of homophobic hate crimes in Manhattan.
About Tony Harris
Tony Harris is a news anchor, television correspondent, and filmmaker currently anchoring Al Jazeera America’s (AJAM) 4pm and 6pm newscasts from Al Jazeera’s US headquarters in New York City. Previously, Harris anchored the flagship Al Jazeera Newshour from the company’s global headquarters in Doha, Qatar becoming the first African-American anchor to be based outside the U.S. for a global news network. Before his current position, Harris anchored CNN Newsroom with Tony Harris for CNN and was a member of the teams that earned CNN George Foster Peabody Awards for coverage of the British petroleum oil spill and Hurricane Katrina, and an Alfred I. duPont Award for coverage of the Southeast Asia tsunami.