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Hitting the brakes on hate after Election Day

Susan Balk, journalist and founder of HateBrakers
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

The level of hate-filled rhetoric during this election season has raised alarms for some people.

The Southern Poverty Law Center this year released a report called “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation's Schools.” The organization’s co-founder, Morris Dees, who joined St. Louis on the Air this week, said, “Never has hate been such a focus in a political campaign whether it’s blacks, Latinos or people coming from different Arab countries, about a man who is essentially appealing to middle class whites, most of them not educated.”

HateBrakers is a nonprofit organization based in St. Louis that seeks to, as the name of the organization reveals, put the brakes on hate.

“Hate is a very primitive emotion. It’s like love. We all have both in us,” said Susan Balk, a journalist and the founder of HateBrakers, who joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh.

“I find that there are friends who know what I do and say, ‘you know, I don’t even get together with my friends or people from church, I can’t even talk to them because the velocity of our conversations are beyond control,’” Balk said.

The point, Balk said, is that people can passionately support a candidate but there’s no need to turn that support into hatred for the other side.

Indeed, this election cycle has made some family conversations difficult. Balk cited the example of a brother and sister, one who supports Donald Trump and the other who supports Hillary Clinton. “They love each other but they find that they can’t talk to one another right now,” Balk said. “If they talk about politics right now, it’s a trigger. They go off.”

One of the keys to civility is finding common ground, however small it may be. And, HateBrakers’ mission is to interrupt the cycle of hate. It does so by fostering difficult conversations and collaborating with schools through its “Meet A Hero, Be A Hero: HateBraking 101” program.


The organization is also holding an event at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 20 at the Missouri History Museum  called titled, “How Can We Hit the Brakes on Hate After Election Day?” 

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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