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Hatred In Nevada: Getting Worse?

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Peter Cvjetanovic, a student at University of Nevada-Reno, (right) chants while holding torches at a march organized by neo-Nazi, white supremacist and white nationalist organizations in Charlottesville, Va., in the summer of 2017.

Nevada isn't free of the racial and cultural divisions plaguing the entire country.

A week ago, the FBI arrested a Las Vegas man who allegedly threatened to attack a synagogue and a Fremont Street bar he believed catered to LGBTQ customers.

A criminal complaint also says the 23-year-old was in contact with members of a white supremacy group through an encrypted website.

Two days ago, someone posted the photo of a man wearing swastika armbands, Gestapo style, standing in front of the Venetian on the Strip.

In May, the eighth-grade daughter of a Las Vegas rabbi received a note in school, scrawled with a swastika, and a note saying she didn’t belong there.

And two years ago, a University of Nevada, Reno student’s angry, screaming face was photographed and became symbolic of a hate rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Stefanie Tuzman, president and CEO of Jewish Nevada, said there is a rise in anti-Semitism around the country and Nevada is not immune. 

She said the deadly attacks on the synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway has put her community on edge.

"We are just definitely more heightened and aware," she added. "Security and safety for our community and constituents have become really important." 

Tuzman said her group works with the Anti-Defamation League to stay aware of any concerns in Nevada.

Peter Guzman, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, said he personally hasn't run into instances of discrimination based on his ethnicity in the business community. 

However, he is concerned about the overuse of the word "racist."

"We are starting to water down the word 'racist,' because we're using it so often," he added. "Every time we're mad, we call somebody that word and what's happening, in my opinion, is (it is) almost losing its significant impact."

Freelance writer Maythinee Washington has a different view. She believes everyone, including herself, who identifies as a black-mixed race person, is a racist because of societal structures.

"I support through my actions, through being a part of this culture, being a part of this economy, and society--I am racist. I support a white supremacist culture ... we have to look beyond racism having to do with intent and being about, 'I don't have a racist bone in my body,' but how we look at it structurally."

Phil Pascal is a Las Vegas resident who has felt the impact of racism. From his viewpoint, Las Vegas is one of the "most racist" places he's lived. He doesn't think the West Coast -- which he considers Las Vegas an extension of -- is as progressive as people  like to think.

For Pascal, the problem isn't racial slurs being yelled at him. It is often more subtle.

"Racism can be something as simple as someone's reaction to you, to your presence, and it may not be overt but you see it and if you're black, you know its there," he said.

The question for many people is not whether hatred exists in Nevada, but what do do about it.

Washington said it's vital for people to be empathic.

"Imagine yourself as the 'other.' That you are that person," she said, adding that African-Americans have had to do that for generations. "The double consciousness that black folk have had to experience allows for that empathy and we can all learn that."    

(Editor's Note: This discussion originally aired August 2019)


Peter Guzman, president, Latin Chamber of Commerce; Maythinee Washington; freelance writer;  Phil Pascal, Las Vegas resident;  Stefanie Tuzman, president, CEO Jewish Nevada


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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.