Hands-on English current events activity for August, 1998

Latest update: August 7, 1998

Note: You are welcome to print, copy and use this activity with your students. However, please don't re-publish it anywhere without permission.

ESL reading & discussion activity:

Hate group loses court case

To the instructor:
Hate crimes have been much in the news lately, and this case offers a good opportunity to discuss this issue with your ESL students. We have prepared a short reading passage about the church-burning story, with some suggested discussion points at the end. We hope the discussion will allow your students to draw on their own experiences both in this country and in their home countries.

Your students might be interested to know that the lawyer in this case (Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama) was also involved in a case in 1981 in which Vietnamese fishermen in Texas were being harrassed by the KKK. These fishermen were successful in their case and were able to continue pursuing their occupation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a non-profit organization that "combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation." To find out more about them, you can visit their website at http://www.splcenter.org/ At this site you can read more about the cases they are involved in. Under the 'Klanwatch' section you'll find a list of active hate groups in the U.S. and a very interesting map of hate-group sites across the U.S. The SPLC offers free or low-cost resources to educators, and you can write to receive their free magazine, "Teaching Tolerance."

Adapting to lower level students:
In order to make this story accessible to very beginning level or literacy level students, we are providing you with some simple sketches to illustrate the story. We hope you will find these helpful, although we make no claims to artistic ability!! (You might also be able to draw your own sketches for your students based on this idea.) See sketches:
We hope you find this activity worthwhile.
--The Editor

Hate group loses court case

In 1995, two men helped to burn down a church in South Carolina, in the U.S. The church belonged to some black people who lived in a small town. The name of the church was the "Macedonia Baptist Church."

The two men were white, They belonged to a hate group called the Ku Klux Klan. This group hates black people. They wanted to burn the church to frighten the people.

A lawyer for the church, Morris Dees, went to court. He told the judge that the two men who burned the church were not acting alone. They were working for the Ku Klux Klan. He said the KKK should pay the people who lost their church.

In July 1998 this court case was finally finished. The jury listened to the case and agreed that these men and some other members of the KKK were guilty, and they must pay. They must pay a lot of money. They must pay $37.8 million dollars to the people of the Macedonia Baptist Church.

When will the church get this money? Probably never, said their lawyer, because the two men and their hate group don't have very much money. But he says it is still important to win this case. It shows everyone that a hate crime in America is very serious.


Here are some important words to discuss. For each one, give some more examples if you can think of any.

1. racist (This means they hate people because of their skin color.)
Example: The KKK is a racist group because they hate black people.
Other examples:



2. hate crime (This means a crime against someone they hate because of their color or religion.)
Example: Burning the black people's church in South Carolina was a hate crime.
Other examples:



3. victim (This means a person or group who is hurt in a crime.)
Example: The Macedonia Baptist Church was a victim of a hate crime.
Other examples:



4. discrimination (This means giving something to one group but not to another.)
Example: If this class was free for Russian students but Vietnamese students had to pay, that would be discrimination.
Other examples:



5. hate group (This means an organization that hates people because of their color or religion.)
Example: A Neo-Nazi group is a hate group that follows the ideas of Hitler.
Other examples:



Editor's note: I'd be very interested to hear what you and your students thought of this activity! Thank you! We welcome teaching suggestions.--Anna Silliman.


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