COEUR d'ALENE - Dr. Gregory Stanton, president of the international organization known as Genocide Watch, said it's important to identify the process of genocide so preventive action can be taken.
It all starts with "classification" and "symbolization," Stanton said, speaking to 400 attendees at the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations' 16th annual human rights banquet at the Best Western Coeur d'Alene Inn Monday night.
"In fact if you can defeat genocide at this level, by refusing to classify (people based on characteristics like race or religion), you have defeated it - period," Stanton said.
If symbolization is eliminated, genocide is again defeated, he said.
"You can't even put up a swastika in Germany now," he said. "They've been through Nazism, they know what it means. It is literally illegal to put one on a wall. You'll be arrested for it."
The next step in the process of genocide is "dehumanization," he said, which is where the real problem lies.
"Every social group has rules against murder," Stanton said. "If you can convince yourself that whoever it is who you're killing is not human, then of course it is not murder. The way you do this is to use hate propaganda."
Among the other steps is "organization" of hate groups, such as the Aryan Nations, he said.
Stanton, who himself has battled the Ku Klux Klan in his career, said it was an honor to speak in North Idaho. He said with the help of President John F. Kennedy and the FBI the KKK was brought to its knees.
"This is the heritage also of this county," Stanton said. "Because you also have fought the battle, and you fought it here at the local level. And you also have won."
Stanton also spoke of the ongoing challenge of genocide in various parts of the world, including Rwanda.
He gave special attention to the success of citizens' movements in the fall of the regimes in the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, and Liberia. He said that local action is the most effective way to prevent atrocities.
His presentation included both photographs and video to highlight the horrors of a government or organization that targets a national, ethnic, racial or religious group for elimination.
This year's "KCTFHR Civil Rights Award" went to the Benewah Human Rights Coalition for their success in promoting human rights in Benewah County. The coalition, founded two years ago, was especially recognized for its successful anti-bullying program with the St. Maries and Lakeside school districts over the past two years.
Gayle Hughes and Lauren Lepinski received this year's "Bill Wassmuth Memorial Volunteer-of-the-Year Award" for their dedication and volunteer work with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.
Hughes and her professional design office provides free services for all the Task Force on Human Relations' materials.
Lepinski volunteers as the quarterly editor of the Task Force on Human Relations' newsletter.
Thomas Carter, executive director of the Human Rights Education Institute, presented the institute's "Tony Stewart Human Rights Education Award" to Mandy Surratt-Florin, principal of West Ridge Elementary School in Post Falls. She has spent years working on the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fifth grade children's program.
The 2012-2013 Human Rights Education Institute and North Idaho College foundation Governor Phil Batt and State Senator Mary Lou Reed NIC Minority Student Scholarship recipients were introduced. Since 1999, the institute and college foundation have funded 63 minority scholarships at NIC.
The proceeds from Monday's banquet go to the Human Rights Education Institute with a portion of those profits funding the institute's portion of the annual NIC minority student scholarships. The remaining profits assist other institute educational programs in the public schools and community.
In introducing this year's banquet, Tony Stewart, master of ceremonies, said, "The (Task Force on Human Relations) board wants to express its deep appreciation to the people of the Inland Northwest for filling this banquet hall for the past 16 years in a show of support for human rights."