The Power of Advocacy to Fight White Supremacy: Insights from Amy Spitalnick
March 28, 2023
By Kevie Ariane Lucie Lamour ’25
The fight against white supremacy and the need for accountability for crimes committed by hate groups is more essential now than ever. For many of us, this fight is deeply personal and is rooted in our values and our desire to do what is right. That is the case for Amy Spitalnick. As the Executive Director of Integrity First for America (IFA), she played a pivotal role in winning a groundbreaking lawsuit against the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups responsible for the 2017 Charlottesville violence. In a recent talk given at Albion College, as part of the Aldrich Lecture series, Spitalnick shed light on the importance of holding hate groups accountable for their actions and the role that advocacy plays in combating extremism.
Amy Spitalnick is a name that has become synonymous with fighting against white supremacy and extremism in America. The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Amy’s personal connection to the fight against hate and bigotry has been a driving force behind her advocacy work. Her work as the Executive Director of IFA and as a Senior Advisor on Extremism to Human Rights First has gained her national recognition for her unwavering commitment to holding hate groups accountable.
During her lecture to Albion College students and faculty members, Spitalnick delved into the details of the lawsuit that her organization won against the Charlottesville white supremacists. The lawsuit sought to hold these groups accountable for the violence that erupted in 2017 during the “Unite the Right” rally. Amy discussed the legal strategies behind the lawsuit and the challenges that her organization faced in the process.
She also touched upon the broader issue of white supremacy and extremism in the United States. She pointed out that these extremist groups are not only a threat to one marginalized community but to all minorities. She discussed the interconnectedness of our fates and futures and emphasized the ways in which antisemitism was inextricably connected to antiblackness and vice versa. She also highlighted the importance and necessity to address not one, but all types of racism and hatred. With this, inevitably comes to mind the famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King : “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Throughout her lecture, Spitalnick emphasized the role that advocacy plays in combating extremism. While Amy mentioned that our civil justice system is not always fast or well-suited to the accountability we seek, she also pointed out that there are many different pathways to engage. She highlighted the importance of grassroots organizing and community building in creating a counter-narrative to hate and extremism. She also discussed the importance of working across different sectors and building coalitions to address this issue.
Spitalnick suggested that while it can be difficult and sometimes even dangerous, we must not let the attacks on our civil and human rights keep us from exercising them. We should not let extremists scare us off, but instead find ways to make an impact through advocacy. This can take different forms, including getting involved with small organizations, campaigns, or local governments to have a greater impact on our communities. In addition to these efforts, integrating education and other social services is essential to combating the rise of white supremacy. For example, we can make sure that others are able to see and intervene through social media and hold social media and companies accountable.
The fight against white supremacy is not just a piece of history, but a cautionary tale about the importance of standing up for what is right. It is essential to recognize that our safety is linked and that we all have a role to play in combating hate groups and ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
Amy Spitalnick stresses that as we engage in our community, we must remember that we have a lot of power as individuals to advocate for change, whether we are students, politicians, lawyers, or in any other role. The important thing is to say yes to opportunities to make a change and to not let the fear of the unknown hold us back.
Amy Spitalnick’s talk was a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up against hate and prejudice. Her personal story and the work of the Integrity First America, serve as a testament to the power of advocacy in holding hate groups accountable for their actions. She reminds us of the work that can and still needs to be done to combat white supremacy and extremism in the United States.
Kevie Lamour ’25 is an international student from Cap-Haitian, Haiti and a sophomore political science major and economics minor. She is a member of the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program, the James L. Curtis Institute for Race and Belonging, and the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public service where she is pursuing a certificate in legal studies. Kevie is on the executive board member of the Black Student Alliance and is co-founder and vice-president of the African and Caribbean Student Union.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Albion College.