To hear Karen Mock speak, you'd think she were a longtime Cincinnatian. Her message features discussion of hate crimes and complaints about inequitable treatment of minority groups and racial profiling by police officers.
But Mock isn't from Cincinnati. She is executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
In conjunction with Holocaust Awareness Weeks, Mock is the featured speaker in a program Monday at Memorial Hall.
"What she has been doing with the judicial system and law enforcement officers to educate them about hate crimes is exactly what we need in Cincinnati," says Racelle Weiman, director of the Center for Holocaust Education at Hebrew Union College. "We're talking about them, but we don't even know what they are, how to prosecute them, how to prevent them."
'A climate of denial and blame'
Given Canada's reputation as an easygoing place void of the kinds of urban social conflicts that characterize large cities in the United States, Mock's experiences might come as a surprise to some Americans.
"In Canada, there has been a lot of discussion of racial profiling by police, which the police officers vehemently deny occurs but which various communities know occurs," she says from her office in Toronto. "Often, from the victim's perspective, there is differential treatment in minority ethno and racial communities."
As in the United States, the first step has been acknowledging the problem and validating its legitimacy. In Canada, as in this country, civil rights activists must overcome resistance by police.
"In Toronto, the chief recently said racism is not systematic," Mock says. "We help them see where some aspects of systemic discrimination is not intentional but nevertheless is there. There is a climate of denial and blame. To say, as some of the police chiefs have, that it's just a few bad apples overlooks the perceptions and the lived reality of the communities that experience differential treatment."
Once police agencies and government officials recognize the need to address racial profiling or hate crimes, the next step is to build trust in their willingness to change, according to Mock.
"In Canada and in the States as well, there has been the creation of hate crimes enforcement units," she says. "Often the victim groups of hate crimes have had very bad experiences with police and there's not a lot of trust. There's training on both sides. We work very closely with police departments about how to police themselves, how to take hate motivation into account. What are the victim services that police have to provide?"
Civil rights advocates, like government officials, must learn to put aside their own prejudices, Mock says. Just as it's wrong to say all members of minority racial, religious or sexual groups are bad, so too it's wrong to ascribe dishonorable motivations to all police officers.
"I'm very, very careful not to generalize," she says. "Most of the behavior is unintentional by the police. A real dialogue has to take place so there is not stereotyping on both sides."
Mock assists public and private organizations with management and staff development programs, as well as with the development of equitable recruitment and employment policies. She directed a project called "Victim Impact of Racially Motivated Crime" for the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Justice System.
"My message really will be to bring some of the current realities worldwide vis-à-vis hate groups and hate crime activity," Mock says. "But more importantly I talk about some kind of preventive action that various ethno and racial communities can take, ways of interacting with police, the responsibilities of institutions and above all else the role of education and community dialogue so hateful ideology is not taught to the next generation, so the hate mongers' message will fall on deaf ears."
'Ferret them out'
Cincinnati can learn from Mock's work in Canada, according to Weiman.
"Throughout Canada, she's known as the 'Hate Hunter,' " Weiman says. "She knows where every one of them is hiding. She knows how to ferret them out."
The recent passage of an ordinance — proposed by city councilmen John Cranley and David Crowley — adding attacks based on sexual orientation to the roster of hate crimes forbidden by the city illustrates the pertinence of Mock's visit, Weiman says.
"With all the issues that Crowley and Cranley brought up about hate crimes, I thought this would be the time to bring one of our northern neighbors here," she says. "We're missing information we don't have."
Mock hopes her lecture will enable people in Cincinnati to acquire practical information for local application.
"They could give me some examples of problems and I'll give some examples of how we have dealt with it," she says. "Sometimes it's interesting for people to hear how other people in other jurisdictions handle it."
The theme of Holocaust Awareness Weeks this year is "Women and the Holocaust."
Prior to her current position, Mock served 12 years as national director of the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada. People must learn the relationship between hate crimes and the kind of mass persecution Germany perpetrated against Jews during the 1930s and early 1940s, according to Mock.
"One of the lessons of the Holocaust is the need to help people recognize the signs of totalitarian thinking wherever it occurs," she says.
To that end, the sponsorship of Mock's visit by the Kotsovos family is a fitting antidote. Karen and Chris Kotsovos, who are Greek Orthodox, made the donation in memory of Irving Poloniecki, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who introduced and welcomed them to the United States.
"It isn't just Jews bringing in Jews," Weiman says of the three-week series of programs in Holocaust Awareness Weeks.
KAREN MOCK speaks at 7 p.m. Monday at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine. Admission is free. For more information on Mock's work, visit www.crr.ca/en/. For more information on the Center for Holocaust Education at Hebrew Union College, visit www.holocaustandhumanity.org/chhe.htm.