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“Erasing the hate” event aims to turn Facebook activists into real-life ones

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- One central Indiana man is trying to “erase hate” by getting people off their couches and on the streets helping people.

Scott Wheeler says he sees how vocal “Facebook activists” of all stripes have become over the last several months, especially recently in the wake of the white supremacist rally and killing in Charlottesville.

His goal is to teach so-called “keyboard warriors” how to become real-life activists.

“A lot of us are in insulated bubbles,” said Wheeler. “It’s kind of an echo chamber, you know, you can only get so far preaching to the choir.”

He started with an event Sunday night, which brought together more than a dozen organizations.

“When you team up with organizations that are looking to step out and get lows passed, help actual individuals with actual problems that they’re having, put on events to gather more human beings in the real world, those are the things to me that the impact might reach a bit farther,” said Wheeler.

People had the chance to talk with representatives from each group, who Wheeler told to be able to answer one question, “What can I do to help right now?”

“It’s a little overwhelming, that you don’t always know where to help,” said Indianapolis resident Becky. “You know, you might have talents that you didn’t realize could actually be used, in an organization.”

Legacy House, which counsels victims of violence, told attendees they need donations of everything from money to art supplies for kids to food for their therapy dog.

The Fair Housing Center is in need of testers to help uncover potential housing discrimination.

“They kind of secret shop, go into places that we need to see if there’s any differential treatment based on a protected class,” said Brady Rippeger, who works for the Fair Housing Center and manned their booth Sunday night.

He also took the opportunity to promote the Center’s affiliated organization, the Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate, and its new reporting tool and database of reported hate crimes and hate-based incidents. He asked people to spread the word about its existence.

“Indiana is one of only five states without a hate crime law,” said Rippeger. “As a result of that, you do not have to report hate crimes or hate-based incidents to the FBI, so we’re trying to bring this database in to show that it actually does unfortunately happen.”

The founder of La Guía Indy a new smartphone app, attempted to utilize the help of other organizations as much as attendees.  Marilyn Villagran needs help finding resources to connect the local Latino community to, especially those who speak Spanish.

“The Latino community here in town is under a lot of fear, and so I hope to let them know, that there’s a lot of people who are offering help,” said Villagran.

Villagran is also using the app to show English-speaking, Spanish-speaking and bilingual Latinos in Indy, how many Latino-owned businesses and services are out there, since some aren’t easily found online.

Wheeler has two main tips when it comes to transitioning to a more active role, like Villagran’s, in helping a cause.

First, even though many issues might get your blood boiling or tears running, it’s best to start by committing to just one.

Then he says you should tell friends and family what you’re doing because you’ll be more likely to follow through.