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Geography plays role in spreading, fueling hate, U. study says

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SALT LAKE CITY — A growing amount of divisiveness in the U.S. led two researchers at the University of Utah to examine at how geography plays a role in spreading and fueling hate.

Dr. Richard Medina, assistant professor of geography, and Emily Nicolosi, a doctoral candidate, co-authored a study published Friday in the American Association of Geographers academic journal.

“(Hate) gets expressed in different ways,” Medina said. “It gets expressed around the dinner table, it gets expressed in organized hate groups and it gets expressed in the worst form as hate violence when we see hate crimes.”

The two researchers looked at what factors fueled hate in different regions of the country and found fear is often a factor. Research showed people perceive a threat to their socioeconomic security and identity when people they consider as outsiders begin coming in.

A map compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows where hate groups are located, and the U. research supported the geographic location of identified hate groups.

“Some people might have ideas about who belongs in a place that they feel very strongly about,” Nicolosi said. “And when they are saying that certain people don’t belong there, those kinds of ideas can really fuel hate."

While many Americans believe hate is driven by race, religion or sexual orientation, the reality is the factors that cause hate are more complex, Medina said.

“It is really complicated," Media said. "(It) is based a lot on geography and the way that different regions and how those regions think about different cultures within those regions’ history and immigration patterns and waves.”

Overall, embracing diversity is the best way to combat hate, which Medina and Nicolosi acknowledge can be a challenge.

From the findings of this study, the U. researchers say they are now involved in more work to find solutions to eliminate hate in the U.S.

The entire study is available online.


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Sam Penrod


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