After Racist Harassment, North Carolina Community Works To Address It In Eastern North Carolina, threats have increased at schools and businesses since the presidential election. That's left some in the community struggling with how to address it.
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Amid Racist Harassment, Many In North Carolina Town Vow To Fight Back

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Amid Racist Harassment, Many In North Carolina Town Vow To Fight Back

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Since Donald Trump's win last week, groups that track racially motivated harassment have noticed an uptick - swastikas in school bathrooms, hate notes left for women who wear hijabs. One community in North Carolina had an emergency meeting about ways to deal with what's happening to Latinos there. Jess Clark of member station WUNC reports from Greenville, N.C.

JESS CLARK, BYLINE: Juvencio Rocha-Peralta seemed to like what he saw as he greeted people at the doors of Greenville's Unitarian Universalist Church last night.

JUVENCIO ROCHA-PERALTA: Hi. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hi. Good to see you.

ROCHA-PERALTA: Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you.

CLARK: Rocha-Peralta leads the Eastern North Carolina Latin American Coalition. The crowd was white, black, Latino and Asian, retirees, moms, kids, teachers and elected officials. Since Donald Trump's victory, the diversity of this college city is now a source of tension.

ROCHA-PERALTA: I think it's our own responsibility as citizens to come together and unite it and talk about what's going on.

CLARK: What is going on in eastern North Carolina? Greenville resident Leo Otero read the testimony of one local Latina mother who could not attend the forum. She says since the election, her son's classmates have taunted him about his race.

LEO OTERO: (Reading) Today when I picked up my son from school, he seemed sad and was about to cry. And he asked me, Mom, am I going to be deported? I said, no, why? And he said, because almost every kid in school was telling me that I was going to be deported in Mexico. And I told them no, that I was born a U.S. citizen. But they said, yes, you are because you are Mexican. Just look at your skin color.

CLARK: The Southern Poverty Law Center says it's collected more than 400 reports of harassment or intimidation around the country since last week, including one at East Carolina University. Build that wall was spray-painted across a pillar. And Rocha-Peralta says employees at a local pharmaceutical company circulated a petition to ban Spanish.

Now Rocha-Peralta says the community has to figure out how to address racism. Travis Lewis works for the county school district. He says teachers are responding to incidents by focusing on empathy.

TRAVIS LEWIS: They're trying to mediate with these students and often they found that they're friends. They were friends before the election. They get along. And so these comments, you know - why are they saying this? Do they not realize that this is being hurtful to people that they consider friends?

CLARK: But Lewis says schools can't control what kids hear outside the classroom. Greenville psychotherapist Marleni Vilca-Paul is concerned but encouraged by the diversity of the people gathered at the church.

MARLENI VILCA-PAUL: I have hope and I think one by one we going to make it and just maybe little smiles and nice gestures to the Latinos no matter where they are is going to break some barriers.

CLARK: Organizers say this is just the beginning of many meetings to bring together an anxious community. For NPR News, I'm Jess Clark in Greenville, N.C.

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