Editorials | Opinion

In face of hate crimes, let 2020 be a year of respect, kindness and courage

Soon it will be 2020. For some, the thrill of a New Year starting is tempered by concerns for what may be: an increase in hate incidents and/or crimes and an increase in hate speech both online and on the streets. 

Since the start of 2019, ADL Arizona has called out anti-Semitic and hateful incidents, from Flagstaff to Tucson, 33 times, by standing up for Jewish, African American, LGBTQ, Latino, and Muslim communities.

We’ve expressed our reaction as disturbed, offended, appalled, concerned, shocked, horrified, troubled, and disappointed. Never have we been discouraged, as we’ve also seen the goodwill of many who stand up against hate and the rapid response by law enforcement. 

In November, the FBI released 2018 data on hate crimes.

There were 7,120 hate crimes reported nationally in 2018 … that’s 20 hate crimes per day. The most numerous hate crimes were race-based. Nearly 50% were directed against African-Americans.

There was a 42% increase in hate crimes against transgender people.

Nearly 60% of religious hate crimes were motivated by anti-Semitism. Since 1991, Jews have been the most common victims of religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States.

The FBI also reported that anti-Hispanic crimes went up 14% — an increase for the third consecutive year.

What should be the response in the face of these statistics?

• Policymakers and industry leaders need to step up and take concrete action to stop this extremism from spreading.

• The White House must call out this threat by name.

• We need social media platforms to enforce their terms of service and take down hate speech.

• We need all faith, educational, and nonprofit organizations to step forward and stand together.

This is a time for mobilization. This is a time for courage. In 2018, we witnessed a 23% increase in anti-Semitic vandalism and harassment incidents in Arizona.

The spread of anti-Semitism is not something seen in faraway places. It’s happening here in Arizona. It’s happening in Southern Arizona. Last August, flyers were found in Tucson promoting the ugly, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews have an outsized influence over the media, banks, and government. We cannot accept the normalization of this age-old trope here or anywhere.

Tablet Magazine author Carly Pildis wrote what needs to be said every day: “I believe we must stand up and fight anti-Semitism. It is our patriotic duty, for anti-Semitism is a threat to all Americans.”

This is a time to preserve and strengthen our democracy — ensuring the protection of the First Amendment and interests of vulnerable communities. This too is our patriotic duty.

One way ADL seeks to make an impact on Arizona communities is through ADL’s No Place for Hate® initiative. It provides schools and communities with an organizing framework for combating bias, bullying, and hatred, leading to long-term solutions for creating and maintaining a positive school climate. Currently, ADL Arizona partners with 51 schools across the state, touching the lives of over 50,000 students.

Students participating with NPFH sign a Resolution of Respect at the beginning of the school year. Within that resolution, students pledge to seek understanding, speak out against prejudice and discrimination, support those who are the targets of hate, promote respect, not be an innocent bystander when it comes to opposing hate, and recognize individual dignity and promote intergroup harmony.

From kindergarten to high school, students declare their school is No Place for Hate.

In anticipation of 2020, wouldn’t it be better for all of us to make resolutions mirroring the ones made by these young people? We can, for the 365 days of the new year, respect one another’s opinion, act kindly to everyone, and demonstrate courage in the face of adversity.

Let 2020 be the year of respect, kindness, and courage.

Carlos Galindo-Elvira is the regional director for ADL Arizona.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AJP or its publisher, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.