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CWU hosts Southern Poverty Law Center to discuss social climate issues

ELLENSBURG, Wash.--Central Washington University (CWU) is continuing to address hate and racial issues in the community with events that included a special guest from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

After responding to KKK fliers that surfaced last fall, CWU wanted to go more in depth with specific racial issues.

On Monday they hosted leaders from the SPLC to discuss how the current social climate in the nation is affecting smaller communities.

"I don't want to give the impression that hate and extremism is any worse in the Pacific Northwest or in this area in particular than anyplace across the country. What we've noticed though is that there's been an increase in hate and extremist groups across the United States for the last decade," said SPLC outreach director Lecia Brooks.

Brooks says there are about 917 hate groups in the U.S., with 25 new groups in 2016.

She says movements like Not in Our Kitt Co, have helped combat these issues on a local level.

Similar to what many others are doing in response to the political climate.

"What we're seeing and what we're encouraged by is that communities are coming together across identity groups to support one another," Brooks said.

Students say talk about hate and racism has been magnified due to the recent rallies and marches in the country.

But a visit from the SPLC shows progress is being made in their own area.

"She knows so much information on what we can do to improve our community and to fight against hate and it empowers me and I know other students as well," said junior Tai Jackson.

Brooks hopes people will continue to make their voices heard.

Especially when they're being threatened from inside their own community.

"It's our responsibility as citizens to be engaged in the democracy and to stand up for what we think is right and so we should be doing that regardless of the current administration," she said.

To learn more about the Southern Poverty Law Center, click here.

For more information about Not in Our Kitt Co, click here.

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