President Donald Trump on Feb. 28. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/Reuters

There is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism


The actual percentage is yet to be exactly known, but it is already clear that a serious number of the major anti-Semitic incidents taking place — such as defacing Jewish graves, painting swastikas on Jewish students’ dorm room doors, and calling in bomb threats to Jewish institutions — are being perpetrated by leftists who wish to perpetuate the belief that Donald Trump’s election victory has unleashed a national wave of anti-Semitism.

The same seems to hold true for post-Trump anti-Muslim and anti-Black incidents.

I could cite dozens of examples. Here are a few:

Last week, it was reported that a Black, left-wing journalist was arrested for phoning in bomb threats to the ADL and half a dozen other Jewish institutions.

On Feb. 27, the Minneapolis Star Tribune headlined: “Racist graffiti found at Lakeville South High School.”

The article began: “Swastikas, racial epithets and other racist graffiti were found etched on bathroom stalls at Lakeville South High School on Monday.”

It turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by a non-white student: “A ‘non-Caucasian’ Minnesota high school student has been disciplined after it was determined he was responsible for racist and antisemitic graffiti found in a school bathroom. The scribblings included a picture of a lynching, the phrase ‘Hail the Ku Klux Klan,’ the ‘N’ word, and a swastika” (The College Fix, March 2).

On March 1, the Toronto Sun headlined: “Bomb threats targeting Muslims close Concordia buildings.”

The article continued: “ … a group threatened to detonate ‘small artisanal explosive devices’ once a day until Friday in order to injure Muslim students. The group, which described itself as a chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada, or C4, complained about Muslim prayer services on campus.”

The next day, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported: “The man charged in connection with Wednesday’s bomb threats at Concordia University, Hisham Saadi, was a PhD student in economics there. … Saadi is of Lebanese origin.”

The College Fix, which accumulates data on these hoaxes, reported that “At Massachusetts’ Williams College, two students admitted to trashing the school’s Griffin Hall with a ‘red wood-stain substance resembling blood’ and spelled out ‘AMKKK KILL.’ ” The college newspaper, The Williams Record, later reported that the two students did it “to bring attention to the potential impact of the presidential election on campus.”

At Bowling Green State University on the day after the election, a Black student alleged three white males clad in ‘Trump’ shirts called her a racial slur and threw rocks at her. ABC News reported shortly thereafter that the police concluded she made up the story.

MSNBC posted a tweet that contained what appeared to be a video of a female Muslim student beating up a ‘racist’ male pupil at Washburn High School. “Don’t mess with Somali girls in Minnesota,” MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell announced. “The dude tried to knock her hijab (headgar) [sic] off, she gave him a hard lesson.”

The video, titled “Welcome to Washburn,” went viral after it was posted to Facebook, with more than 6.5 million views, more than 161,000 shares and more than 29,000 comments.

But the Minneapolis Star Tribune declared the footage a “hoax” and a “play fight” intended as a joke. And school staff confirmed the alleged incident never happened.

Another anti-Muslim incident that was widely reported was proven to be a hoax. A female Muslim student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette alleged that right after the election, two white men, one of whom was wearing a Trump cap, attacked her and stole her wallet and the hijab she was wearing. Her story prompted the ACLU of Louisiana to issue a statement denouncing both the incident and Donald Trump; the FBI launched an investigation; and the story was covered by The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN.

The Muslim student later admitted to police that she made up the whole story.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a San Francisco man who raised a Nazi flag on the roof of his home right after the election was a left-wing Trump-hater.

There are so many examples of hoaxes perpetrated by Black, Muslim and white leftists that they could fill this issue of the Jewish Journal.

The entire notion of a Trump-inspired crime wave is fake news spread by the mainstream media. For more examples, see “There Is No Violent Hate-Crimewave In ‘Trump’s America.’ ”

Donald Trump is no more anti-Semitic than the columnists of this newspaper. Nor is Breitbart.com anti-Semitic. And there is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism in America.

This is only one more example of left-wing hysteria — like heterosexual AIDS in America; the “rape culture” on campuses; the alleged crisis of racist cops wantonly killing innocent Blacks; and global warming threatening life on earth.

Jews who think there is such a wave do so because they hate Donald Trump so much, they want to believe it. In other words, a lot of Jews want to believe that Jews are hated in America more than ever. Yet another way in which leftism has poisoned Jewish life.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Trump team condemns ‘racism’ without addressing pro-Trump event with Nazi salutes


Donald Trump’s transition team declined to directly condemn a conference where his victory was hailed as a triumph for white supremacists, instead reiterating a general denunciation of racism.

Asked by NBC and other media to comment on the weekend conference in Washington D.C. , the president-elect’s transition team said Monday that Trump opposed “racism of any kind.”

“President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American,” the transition team said. “To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”

The weekend conference convened by Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement, was a festival of racist and anti-Semitic preening. When Spencer said “Hail Trump,” some at the conference responded with Nazi salutes and cried out “Heil victory!”

At least one Jewish group and one Israeli political leader suggested in statements that the Trump team’s statement did not go far enough, and that they still expected to hear direct condemnation of the conference.

“Watching Spencer using Nazi slogans to spew forth his hate was sickening,” said a statement by Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, after the Trump transition team’s comment. “We call on our future president and commander-in-chief to take on Spencer and his ilk directly.”

Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s Yesh Atid party, made a similar appeal to Trump and to outgoing President Barack Obama.

“One of the greatest mistakes humanity ever made was a failure to recognize the danger of fascism early enough and tackle it head on,” he said Tuesday morning. “I have every confidence that President Obama and President-elect Trump oppose this abhorrent phenomenon, now is the time to translate that opposition into unequivocal condemnation and swift action.”

The alt-right is a loose far-right movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

Trump and his campaign have borrowed images and themes originating in the alt-right, including a number that have brought condemnation from Jewish and anti-bias groups. Trump himself throughout the campaign delivered broadsides against Muslims and Hispanics, antagonized black groups and the disabled and used vulgar terms to describe women.

White supremacists and anti-Semites endorsed Trump before the election and have celebrated his victory. Trump has denounced racism and rejected the endorsements, but he has typically done so only when prompted by the media. At times, he has added to these repudiations angry denunciations of the media for making an issue of his support among racists.

In a statement issued before the Trump transition team’s comment was posted, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum expressed its alarm at the Spencer event, held in the Ronald Reagan building just a short walk from the museum.

“The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words,” it said. “The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech. “

Following the alt-right event, conference-goers decamped to a restaurant, Maggiano’s, where some posed for photos raising their arms in a Nazi salute. Maggiano’s, on Facebook, apologized to the Friendship Heights neighborhood where it is situated and said it was donating the profits from the evening, $10,000, to the Anti-Defamation League.

Can a hobbled EU live up to its promise to combat anti-Semitism and racism?


When the late Austro-Hungarian aristocrat Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi attended church on Good Friday, his father would famously cause a scene, storming out when the liturgy came to the anti-Semitic exhortation “Let us also pray for the faithless Jews.”

Such protest was unusual in 19th-century Austria-Hungary, where anti-Semitism and other forms of racism were de rigueur. But the old count — a personal friend of Zionist legend Theodor Herzl — abhorred such biases in part because his wife, Richard’s mother, was Japanese.

Brought up in a multiculturalist home, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi made the fight against anti-Semitism a cornerstone of the Pan-Europa movement he founded in 1926. It was a major precursor of the European Union, which has evolved into a quasi-federal entity of 28 states with its own executive arm – the European Commission — parliament and judiciary.

Little wonder, then, that prominent Jews such as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud endorsed the nobleman’s pan-European vision from its inception. They saw it as an antidote to the nationalism and racist hate that culminated  in World War II and the Holocaust.

Determined to prevent the recurrence of such traumatic events, postwar European societies became open to adopting the revolutionary pan-European model of government.

Traditionally, Jews have been very supportive of the incarnation of von Coudenhove-Kalergi’s vision: the European Union, with its strong anti-racist rhetoric and agendas. But the growing influence of homegrown xenophobes, integration failures and Brussels’ perceived singling out of Israel for criticism have disillusioned many Jewish opinion shapers.

These conflicting Jewish attitudes were on display during the polarizing debate that took place in the United Kingdom over last month’s referendum on a British exit, or Brexit, from the European Union, according to Geoffrey Alderman, a historian and former member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“There’s a belief that Jews are a very cosmopolitan, pan-European people whom one would’ve expected to show a large measure of support to the idea of the EU,” he said. But in Britain, “prominent Jews were in favor of exiting,” said Alderman, who himself was among the 52 percent of British voters in the June 23 referendum who supported leaving the bloc.

The British Jewish community’s institutions stayed neutral on the Brexit issue, whereas many Jewish intellectuals argued that the desire to leave was born of xenophobia and ignorance and risked unleashing a wave of nationalism and economic instability in the UK and beyond. The British-Jewish sociologist David Hirsh, in an op-ed for the Jewish News of London, highlighted the “freedom of movement, freedom to work where you choose and freedom of trade” afforded by the EU.

Strong statements about the need to fight anti-Semitism from some of the EU’s top officials have also shored up Jewish support.

“If there’s no future for Jews in Europe, there’s no future for Europe,” Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, said last year.

Robert-Jan Smits, a director within the European Commission, said in 2011 that “present-day Europe arose from the ash of Auschwitz crematoria.”

And European Parliament President Martin Schulz said this year: “Jewish friends, we stand with you against those who spread hatred. Europe is your home today, every day and forever.’’

But the European Union’s Jewish critics say it is unable to back up the rhetoric with action — one reason, according to Alderman, why many Jewish Brexiters were open to leaving.

In the first few traumatized decades after World War II, anti-Semitism was “present but not spoken of” in the EU’s founding states in the continent’s west, Alderman said. “But anti-Semitism is a light sleeper and the EU has failed to create the political-social conditions” to keep it dormant, he said.

The awakening unleashed a resurgence of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence in Western Europe. It was spearheaded by Muslims, who were invited to immigrate there as cheap laborers on the promise that the countries would integrate and embrace them, and under the assumption that the immigrants would integrate and embrace postwar European values.

Millions of Muslims have done just that, but jihadists who grew within these communities have killed more than 300 people in terrorist attacks since 2012 alone — including 12 in three attacks on Jewish targets in France and Belgium.

Meanwhile, Eastern European EU member states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary are celebrating the legacies of Nazi collaborators who participated in the Holocaust. Xenophobic parties from both east and west are riding a crest of popularity into the European Parliament, the legislative arm of the body set up to prevent such tendencies from reaching power.

Jewish Euroskeptics argue it would be easier to be deal with such challenges on a national level. EU supporters, including Hirsh, say these challenges require European societies to double down on federal ideals.

Far from ignoring the problem of anti-Semitism, say the EU’s defenders, EU senior officials have vowed to fight them head on.

“It is unacceptable that Jews are reluctant to wear their traditional clothes and display religious symbols in public because of fear,” Schulz said in January. “Jews are again killed because they are Jews. We will fight the demons of anti-Semitism, of ultranationalism, of intolerance.”

The European Union has taken some concrete steps to achieve this, including the unveiling in May of a code of conduct on online hate speech together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft.

But in 2013, the EU eroded its own credibility with many on this issue by abandoning the only definition it had for anti-Semitism after pro-Palestinian critics objected to the inclusion of a clause about the demonization of Israel. Currently, the EU agency for fighting racism is on record as saying it is unable to define anti-Semitism and that the concept is not in need of a definition.

Critics, including Alderman, disagree.

The decision to drop the working definition on anti-Semitism “damages the European Union’s credibility on its desire to fight anti-Semitic racism,” said Shimon Samuels, a British national based in Paris who heads the European office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Back in Britain, a staunch advocate of the European Union — Rabbi David Rose of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation — drew parallels between Europeans’ ambivalence toward the EU to the Hebrews’ reluctance to trust God after he led them out of Egypt and through the Sinai Desert.

Eventually, Rose said, God gave up on the people he rescued and decided to build his Chosen People from their children born during 40 years in the wilderness.

“Perhaps in this analogy we are in the wilderness and our job is to raise a generation worthy of the Promised Land,” he said.

How 10-year-olds, not cops, spearhead gang prevention in South L.A.


If you want to limit gangs, law enforcement cannot be the driving force of your strategy.

It seems counterintuitive, but it was one of the most important lessons I learned while leading Los Angeles’ Gang Reduction & Youth Development (GRYD) program in South L.A. and other neighborhoods. The police and other law enforcement officials are precisely the wrong people to be working on gang reduction. Los Angeles is fortunate to have a smart and diverse police force, and officers are needed to stop violent and law-breaking gang members from putting the public in danger. But the gang prevention focus needs to be on keeping gang-age young people out of gangs. Too often, the police can provide a common enemy that solidifies the bonds of young people in gangs, and keeps them there.

This insight was not my own—it’s one of the central ideas of legendary gang researcher Malcolm Klein, an emeritus sociologist at USC. In one of my conversations with Mac, he compared the social relations that bring together gangs to the lifelong affection and solidarity that soldiers have for those with whom they served in combat. In countering gangs, it is vital not to put potential gang members under siege or to give them a common enemy; that just fuels their cohesion.

Applying this insight was an enormous departure in L.A. For 30 years, the city handled gangs as primarily a law enforcement matter. In the 1980s, LAPD Chief Daryl Gates declared war on gangs—which Mac’s research showed was counterproductive. Our overcrowded prison system, too, reinforced gangs by segregating prisoners by race and gang affiliation.

But a decade ago, Police Chief William Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa decided to shift strategies. They figured out that to disrupt the gang phenomenon, you needed to focus on weakening the social ties between gang members and strengthening other kinds of relationships and social ties among gang-age young people.

In 2006, South L.A. was the source of half the gang-related violence in the city. By that year, every category of crime was in decline L.A.-wide—except gang violence, which had increased 16 percent in one year. There had been a series of shootings in Watts at the end of 2006, with nine people killed. On the heels of the violence came a report from attorney Connie Rice and The Advancement Project  and an audit from Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick that deemed the city’s anti-gang approach a failure, creating enormous public attention—and an opportunity to change.

At the time, I had recently completed two years as chief of staff at Sojourners, the Washington, D.C.-based Christian community dedicated to social justice. I’m also an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene. But my expertise and work had been with young people, and figuring out how to engage them during my 17 years at the Bresee Foundation.

Which is why the mayor hired me to develop the new approach to combating gangs that became GRYD. Until then, the city’s anti-gang and youth resources had been spread thinly across 15 Council Districts in Los Angeles like peanut butter. In mid-2008, we won a bruising political battle to consolidate them, taking the money and targeting it in eight zones where rates of violence were four times more than in the rest of the city. Four of these zones were in South L.A.

In summer 2008, we had our first big initiative, Summer Night Lights. We kept certain public parks open late into the night, turned on the lights, and brought in programming that had been designed in consultation with young people, including gang members. Summer Night Lights was, and still is, an immediate hit with young people. It became the linchpin of our efforts to turn public spaces into places where everyone could participate.

We put two-thirds of the money into prevention programs and activities like Summer Night Lights. We spent a lot of time talking to LAPD officers, and suggesting that they focus their attention only on the hardcore gang members who do the shooting, and stop arresting kids who look or walk like gang members.

We also had researchers at USC create an assessment tool to produce data on who might be most likely to become a gang member. The researchers told us we were actually looking for a very small number of people. Even in neighborhoods considered gang-infested, 85 percent of kids will never join a gang; only 15 percent will join, and most will be active for two or fewer years. So how could we identify those few kids who were most at risk to become hardcore gang members, and focus our resources on them?

The research showed that kids are most likely to join gangs between ages 10 to 14, and we came up with 15 primary risk factors to assess that age group for gang membership. If the assessment tool scored them as likely to join a gang, they were eligible to be in the GRYD program.

This was controversial, especially when the assessment tool contradicted what people thought. People might look at a kid whose father and brother were gang members and say, ‘this is a high-risk kid.’ But it turned out that for some kids, having family members who were gang members provided daily reminders of why they didn’t want to be in gangs.

GRYD brought together city agencies to develop plans for high-risk kids that would include improving their school performances and encouraging activities that built strong social relationships. Some of our biggest allies in much of this work turned out to be grandmothers, who worked with their grandchildren, and some of whom also drove the work of the Watts Gang Task Force, a joint effort of law enforcement, communities, and agencies that has made a huge impact on reducing gang violence.

GRYD was just one factor in the decrease in gang violence in South L.A. Gang-related crime was dropping at the time across the country. We don’t understand all of the reasons why, and it’s not clear if previous strategies will work in today’s landscape, where gang violence has shifted to being done online and through human trafficking instead of drug trafficking. But we do know that aggressive assessment of risks and youth development make a difference in keeping kids away from law enforcement—and out of gangs. 

Rev. Jeff Carr led GRYD and served as Chief of Staff under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Most recently he was the interim CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Los Angeles, a new umbrella organization of seven clubs, three in South L.A.  He recently relocated to Portland, Oregon.

This essay is part of South Los Angeles: Can the Site of America's Worst Modern Riots Save an Entire City?, a special project of Zócalo Public Square and The California Wellness Foundation.

Jewish groups condemn racism, anti-Semitism in 2016 campaign


The Anti-Defamation League and 27 other Jewish social justice organizations penned a forceful open letter imploring political candidates to put an end to the racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia they say has emerged in this year’s campaign.

Although the letter released Thursday does not mention a candidate by name, it comes during a week in which Donald Trump has fended off charges of sharing a tweet, perceived by some as anti-Semitic, that originated on a far-right internet bulletin board. The letter also alludes to affronts to Muslims, Syrian refugees and Mexicans, all of whom have been singled out by the presumptive Republican candidate during his presidential campaign.

“We are deeply concerned by suggestions that Muslim Americans should be targeted by law enforcement, simply because of their faith,” according to the letter. “We object to hurtful characterizations of entire ethnic groups as criminals. We are pained by anti-Semitic epithets hurled at Jewish Americans on social media.”

Organized by the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, a coalition of  Jewish organizations, the open letter’s signers include HIAS, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, and groups representing the Conservative and Reconstuctionist denominations.

“We share a belief that public figures, including those who aspire to hold elected office in service to people of all races and religions, have a responsibility to forcefully and unequivocally condemn these dangerous phenomena,” the letter said.

The letter invokes the experiences of Jews to emphasize the danger of allowing prejudice to spread through the words of public figures.

“The Jewish community knows all too well what can happen when particular religious or ethnic groups become the focus of invective. We have witnessed the dangerous acts that can follow verbal expressions of hate,” it said.

The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations among the signatories are not permitted to be directly involved with political activism nor show partisanship, although they may engage in advocacy on behalf of their principles.

“This letter is not about left or right, it’s about Jewish and American values,” Abby Levine, director of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, told JTA. “If any Jewish person in this country doesn’t understand, doesn’t at least acknowledge this concern and shock at what’s happening in our country, they are just not being honest about our community and our society.”

Workplace discrimination against women, racial minorities may be similar, but it’s not the same


While the U.S. currently has a black president and a woman just made history by clinching the Democratic presidential nomination, both racial minorities and women still face significant barriers in professional settings.

Considering the parallels and differences in the biases that women and racial minorities face is an important way to increase our understanding of workplace discrimination and equality. By reviewing some recent work by cross-disciplinary researchers from across the world, we attempted to shed light and theorize on some ways in which racial minorities might suffer from similar biases as those identified for women. For the sake of comprehension, we narrowed our scope to research on Asian Americans.

As our starting point, we took four patterns of workplace bias that women face as identified by a 2014 study by a research team based out of UC Hastings College of the Law’s Center for WorkLife Law. Joan C. Williams, Kathrine W. Phillips, and Erika V. Hall interviewed 60 women who work in the sciences and found that 100 percent reported experiencing one or more of four gender bias patterns.

Although these biases were identified as specific to women, by comparing them to findings from research on biases that Asian Americans face in the workplace, it becomes clear that they can also apply to racial minorities.

The first bias, “prove-it-again,” refers to when women have to provide more evidence of competence than men in order to be seen as equally competent. As the name suggests, women can find themselves in situations where they have to prove again and again that they are professional, competent, and/or intelligent. For example, a woman might have to exhibit competency at her job for a longer period before being considered for promotion than a man doing an equivalent job. 

Similarly, Asians oftentimes have to provide more evidence of competence than non-Asians. A 2013 study by Lei Lai and Linda C. Babcock found evidence that Asian Americans are evaluated as less socially skilled than whites, and are therefore less likely to be hired for a job requiring social skills (like public relations) than technical skills (like information technology). A 2013 study on the leadership theories of Asian Americans and whites found that even when Asian managers are seen as equally competent as white managers in specific metrics, on the whole whites see Asian managers as less sociable, less transformational, and less authentic compared to white managers. Like women, Asian Americans must prove their competence to a greater extent than whites, particularly in areas where stereotypes and prejudices remain.

The second bias, “tightrope,” refers to when women find themselves walking a tightrope between being seen as too feminine to be competent—or too masculine to be likable. This is a difficult—not to mention unfair—balance for women to have to consider, and is often very hard to attain. Hillary Clinton is only the most recent and prominent example of a woman who has been criticized for being “too masculine” or, in more coded language, “too ambitious and eager.”

Similarly, Asians are commonly stereotyped as being more feminine and less masculine compared to whites or blacks. In 2012, Jennifer L. Berdahl and Ji-A Min examined stereotypes of East Asians (Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese) and found that they are expected to be as competent and warm as whites—but also less dominant (i.e., masculine). And a 2015 study of “gender profiling” by Erika Hall, Adam Galinsky, and Katherine Phillips found that because Asians are seen as more feminine than whites and blacks, they are seen as better fits for feminine rather than masculine positions. This could pose barriers when Asians seek positions—like police officer or banker—that are historically seen as masculine.

The third bias, “maternal wall,” refers to women finding themselves confronted with the stereotype that they lose their work commitment and competence after having kids. Men who have children don’t typically face this same stereotype in the workplace. 

There is evidence suggesting that Asian women are faced with particular biases and challenges around motherhood in professional contexts. In the same 2014 study of women scientists by Williams and colleagues, Asian women described more pressure from their families to have children than whites and blacks, and also felt more responsible to cover for colleagues who are mothers compared to Latina and white women. At the same time, Asian women were more frequently told by colleagues that they should work fewer hours after having children compared to black and Latina mothers. So Asian-American women face more pressure from their families to have children, while also experiencing more pressure from colleagues to work less after having children.

The fourth bias, “tug of war,” refers to when gender bias fuels conflict among women. In some instances, having a sexist work environment can lead women to want to distance themselves from their gender group in different ways, including by criticizing other women.

Based on the interviews reported by Williams and colleagues, Asian women had to compete with other women for a “woman’s spot” –i.e, a position intended to be filled by a woman—at higher levels than white and Latina women. This seems to suggest that for Asian women, there is more (or at least greater perceptions) of a “zero sum” situation when it comes to the workforce and women colleagues, where one woman’s gain is another woman’s loss.

Ultimately, what strikes us is that there are clear intergroup differences in how women experience and are exposed to these four different patterns of bias, depending on their racial background. Asian women’s experiences can be significantly different from black women’s experiences, and in order to create an equal and inclusive workplace for all, it is important to be aware of such differences.

Future research should look at the ways in which biases and prejudice against women compare to those against racial minorities, and study which type of interventions are most effective in reducing the effects of such biases. More study is also needed on the intersections of race and gender when it comes to workplace bias. A greater understanding and awareness of the parallels and differences between the biases that women and racial minorities face can result in more effective and efficient interventions in the workplace designed to promote inclusion for all.

Serena Does is a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA Anderson School of Management and Margaret Shih is full professor at UCLA Anderson school of Management.

This article originally appeared on Zocalo Public Square.

 

 

 

 

Forget Brexit. Remember rain.


I was startled to see Laura Haim’s face on TV. It made sense that she’d be on cable news last week; as White House correspondent for the French network Canal Plus, she was well placed to tell Americans the French reaction to Brexit. What brought me up short was that I’d forgotten about her.

Without consciously deciding to, I’d filed away my recollection of watching her night after night on MSNBC, reporting what her sources were telling her about the ISIS attacks in Paris.  I’d been obsessed with that story, and fearful for my safety and my kids’, just as I’d been even more acutely after the killings in nearby San Bernardino. But at some point in the six months since then my memory of Paris and of Haim had submerged, like the alligator at Disney World, until the terrorist murders in Orlando. 

Sometimes I forget to be afraid of things. Right now I’m plenty worried about the financial and political aftermath of Brexit. I’m panicky about its impact on my nest egg, and I’m scared that the xenophobia that fueled it could also fuel a Trump win. But if the past is any guide, those fears will be displaced by future reasons for insomnia. You can’t worry about everything all the time. For weeks or months on end, I can forget to worry about earthquakes in Los Angeles, but then a serious shaker somewhere in the world will remind me that living here is licking the razor.  I often forget to worry about climate change, until a heat wave in India or a forest fire in California reminds me that most people now alive will live to see its far worse consequences.

Something similar to forgetting fears happens to me, and maybe to you, with outrage. It’s as though my bandwidth for fury has a limit. There’s only so much I can be actively, currently pissed off about; in order to get my anger pumping, new injustices need to push previous affronts off my radar. 

So I’m irate with John McCain for saying that Barack Obama is directly responsible for the slaying of 49 people in Orlando, then I’m enraged at Paul Ryan for refusing to bring gun safety to a vote, until I’m once again livid at Mitch McConnell’s refusal to bring Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination for a vote that resulted in the 4-4 tie that doomed Obama’s immigration plan. I’m boiling at CNN for hiring Trump stooge Corey Lewandowski, until I’m more maddened at the way they cover Trump’s Scottish golf resort infomercial: with a wry, What-an-inveterate-salesman tone, instead of a pitiless, What-a-corrupt-embarrassment.

All the while that fear and outrage are running zero-sum games for dominance of my headspace, even as I forget to be afraid or outraged by anything but the most immediate ugly news, there’s something else I forget unless it forces itself on my attention. But when the breaking news is the sound that rain makes, or the shape of a leaf, or the fact that there is something rather than nothing: that’s when I recall that noticing what is is not a finite human faculty.

We have a limitless capacity for amazement.  Mindfulness is not a zero-sum game. If you pay attention to the crackle of a strawberry seed in your mouth, that wonderment does not displace a prior alertness to existence; it adds to it. Ordinary mysticism — the experience of being right here, right now, whether you’re by the ocean or by the washing machine — is cumulative. The more you have, the more you have. It’s a mercy that we can’t keep in mind all the reasons the world forces on us to be frightened or furious; if we did, our heads would explode, and our spirits would be suicidal. It’s something of a miracle that when it comes to awe, we can contain multitudes.

Right now, any sign that Donald Trump could be our next president has a good shot at owning my mind. I see that the Brexit vote is disproportionately powered by elderly Britons, and I see in that a mirror of Trump’s base. I see “Leave” campaign leader Nigel Farrage promise that if the U.K. exits the E.U., the National Health Service will get the 350 million pounds per week that Britain gives Europe; I see the British press try in vain to debunk that claim; the morning after the vote, I see Farrage admit it was a “mistake” (i.e., lie) — and I think of another liar’s immune-to-fact-checking promise: “Who will pay for the wall?” “Mexico!” I see that within hours of the Brexit outcome, more than a million establishment-kicking, remorseful British voters have signed a petition for a re-vote, and I imagine the American hangover the morning after the send-them-a-message victory of President-elect Trump.

Minds are funny. A North Korean nuke would take mine off Trump. So would a news fast. I’m just glad that no one needs a nightmare or a digital detox to surrender to a starry night.   

Jewish Journal columnist and USC Annenberg professor Marty Kaplan won 1st Place for Commentary at the Los Angeles Press Club's 58th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards on June 26. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Will Donald Trump make America hate again?


For decades, it seemed that the visuals of Nazi propaganda — replete with hunch-backed, leering, long-nosed Chasidic Jews — had vanished. Then came the internet.

Virulently anti-Semitic imagery has made its way into the presidential campaign, materializing, for instance, in Julia Ioffe’s inbox and social media feeds after the Jewish reporter wrote a profile in GQ of Melania Trump, who found the article unflattering.

Now, members of the Jewish world who pay close attention to hate speech — anti-Semitic and otherwise — are posing an unsettling question: Will Donald Trump make America hate again? For some, the answer is that he already has.

“Trump’s rhetoric resonates with white supremacists,” said Joanna Mendelson, an investigative researcher with the Center on Extremism, a branch of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“They’ve been essentially energized about Trump’s candidacy, and they’ve been very vocal about their support of Trump and his policies on immigration and globalism,” Mendelson said.

In February, the ADL published a list of 10 prominent white supremacists who actively support Trump. Then, in April, it urged the candidate to drop the phrase “America First” as a campaign slogan, pointing out it had been used by Charles Lindbergh, a prominent Nazi sympathizer, in the 1940s.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, another prominent Jewish organization monitoring hate speech, has stopped short of calling out Trump by name. 

But in an emailed statement to the Jewish Journal, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s founder and dean, wrote, “No political candidate for high office of any sort should allow hate groups and bigots to pollute their campaign by peddling their hatred.”  

Trump’s tough stance on immigrants, paired with his anti-establishment ethos, seems to have made him the most palatable candidate in decades for white supremacists, who otherwise have been slowly fading into the country’s political fringe.

William Johnson, who was named on the ADL list, explained that Trump’s promise to put American interests first speaks to the concerns of white nationalists (he rejects the term “white supremacist,” calling it “the worst swear word out there”).

As the chairman of the anti-immigrant American Freedom Party, Johnson favors the creation of a white ethno-state.

A corporate lawyer in downtown Los Angeles, Johnson became entangled in the Trump campaign last month when he applied to become a California delegate to the Republican convention, and his name was accidentally included in the list of Trump convention delegates sent to the California secretary of state.

“Virtually all of the white nationalist movement is behind Donald Trump,” Johnson said in an interview with the Journal at the time.

In a second interview with the Journal, Johnson said the support stems from the fact that every other major presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has promoted a globalist agenda of open borders and multiculturalism.

“They’re all promoting the globalist platform that Donald Trump is now tearing apart,” he said.

He added that many members of his community are also tacitly rooting for Bernie Sanders because of his anti-establishment stance.

In the interview, Johnson drew a line between white nationalists who see Jews as benign, saying Ashkenazis “would probably be considered white,” and those who see them as problematic non-whites. Johnson said he belongs to the first camp.

On the other side of that split is David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Last month, Duke praised Trump on his radio show for exposing “Jewish supremacists who control our country.”

“Many people are upset with the Zionist elite,” Duke wrote in an email to the Journal, describing himself as “a Gentile who loves his own people as much as Jews love their own people.” 

Duke declined to comment further.

Mendelson, the ADL researcher, questioned the existence of a clean divide between white supremacists who hate Jews and those who don’t.

“I look at many of those folks as ecumenical haters,” she said. “You can’t parse out their hatred for Jews, because really their hatred extends across the spectrum.”

While some haters are willing to speak out in public, she said, many “might not do so boldly in their workplace or on the street corner or at that rally.” Instead, they take to the internet.

“I’ve talked with many who agree with my opinions on Jewish influence, but it’s a very tricky subject to talk about in public,” a 22-year-old engineer from Houston, who declined to be named for this story, wrote in a private message on Twitter.

Posting under the handle @NationalismRise, the engineer has described a target of his ire as a “filthy kike,” tweeted pictures of swastikas and referred to The New York Times as the “Jew York Times.” He describes himself as a Trump supporter and a member of the alt-right movement, a fringe group of ultra-nationalist ideologies that challenges mainstream conservatism.

Asked why he believes Trump will stand up to Jewish political interests, he said, “The proof is in the pudding.”

“The amount of hate & vitriol aimed at Trump from Jewish members of the media & high finance has been constant for the last year,” he wrote.

He echoed Johnson’s sentiment that Trump would do away with the pervasive globalism of America’s foreign policy: “I believe his America First foreign policy and criticism of the neoconservative movement implies he will be much less likely to carry water for Israel.”

While Ioffe may have been the first high-profile case of a journalist finding herself on the business end of a stream of Trump-inspired, anti-Semitic Twitter invective, she is not the last.

After retweeting a Washington Post essay that called Trump “perilous to the republic,” New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman saw his feed flooded with Jew-bashing messages and images, including a cartoon of Weisman in a gas chamber with a yellow star on his lapel and a Nazified Donald Trump standing guard.

In a Times op-ed, Weisman castigated Trump for failing to rein in his supporters. He also took aim at the Republican Jewish Coalition for failing to single out Trump in a May 24 statement condemning anti-Semitic attacks on journalists, “whether it be from Sanders, Clinton or Trump supporters.”

“In Mr. Trump, many in the alt-right have found an imperfect vessel for their cause, but they have poured their rage into his campaign without impediment,” Weisman wrote. “Mr. Trump apparently takes all comers.”

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, never forget necessitates never Trump


Today, on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), we pledge to never forget the genocide of 12 million people, based on their religion, ethnicity, sexuality, and other factors. We do this so that we always remember that it is the duty of each and every one of us to fight genocide, anti-Semitism, and bigotry in every form that we see it.

This week, Donald Trump cemented his place as Republican presidential nominee. More than any other year, I’m cognizant today of my responsibility to speak up against the hatred that Donald Trump espouses day after day.

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, ‘Never Forget’ necessitates ‘Never Trump.’

The unhinged bigotry of Trump requires Jewish Americans – and all Americans – to speak up. Trump has been perfectly clear with his pledge that as president – in fact, within the first 100 days of his presidency – he’ll ban Muslims from entering the country. He kicked off his campaign describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” When a Trump supporter punched an African American protester at one of Trump’s rallies, saying, “next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” Trump said that the protester “obviously loves the country” and that Trump would pay the protester’s legal fees.

Trump legitimizes and raises up the profile of the white nationalist movement in the United States. He at first refused to disavow support from former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.  Yesterday, Duke celebrated Donald Trump’s place as leader of the Republican Party, stating, “Even though Trump is not explicitly talking about European-Americans, he is implicitly talking about the interests of European-Americans,” and “Jewish supremacists who control our country are the real problem and the reason why America is not great.” And Trump says he “doesn’t have a message to [his] fans” who have been sending death threats to Jewish reporter Julia Ioffe, who wrote a profile for GQ on Melania Trump.

When we see this, how can we do anything but speak out? It’s this type of rhetoric that has escalated to genocide in the past. I hope we can put partisan politics aside, and agree that no person hoping to be the next president of the United States should promote racist policies or use xenophobic rhetoric.

It should deeply trouble all Americans that Donald Trump is empowering white nationalists across the country and basing his campaign on demonizing people based on their race and religion. We’re at a pivotal moment in our country. Republican or Democrat, we have an obligation to speak up against the bigotry of Trump. As we pledge on Holocaust Remembrance Day to never forget, we must commit to Never Trump as well.

Britain’s Labour reportedly has suspended 50 members over racism, anti-Semitism


Britain’s Labour Party reportedly has secretly suspended 50 members in the past two months over anti-Semitic and racist comments.

The suspensions by the party’s compliance unit were reported in the British daily The Telegraph on Monday evening, citing a senior source within the party. Up to 20 members have been suspended in the past two weeks, the source said. Some 13 members have been publicly named since October.

On Monday, the party suspended three local lawmakers over a span of several hours for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic social media postings.

The Daily Mirror accused party head Jeremy Corbyn of playing down the issue of anti-Semitism and racism in the party after he said in an interview with the London-based newspaper: ‘What there is is a very small number of people that have said things that they should not have done. We have therefore said they will be suspended and investigated.”

On April 28, the party suspended former London Mayor Ken Livingstone for saying that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was a Zionist for advocating in 1932 a policy of moving Europe’s Jews to Israel.

The following day, Labour said it would launch an investigation into anti-Semitism in the party. Corbyn also said in a statement that he would propose a new party code of conduct that would “make explicitly clear for the first time that Labour will not tolerate any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, in the party.”

Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who has called Hezbollah and Hamas activists “friends,” has been criticized for not doing enough to curb the rising anti-Semitic rhetoric in his party and has been accused of encouraging vitriol against Israel and Jews by not distancing himself from groups such as Hamas.

Local elections in Britain, including for mayor of London, are scheduled for Thursday in a race that Labour’s candidate, Sadiq Khan, is favored to win, which would make him the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city. Labour, however, is expected to lose tens of seats nationwide. Khan is among those who have called for Livingstone’s expulsion from the party.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Member of Parliament Naz Shah, who was suspended from the party last week for a a 2014 Facebook post called for relocating the entire State of Israel to the United States, resigned from a Home Affairs Select Committee investigating anti-Semitism in the party. The committee agreed at her request to excuse Shah “until her current issues have been resolved,” The Telegraph reported.

Top Reform bodies renew call for Redskins to change name, logo


Two top Reform movement groups reiterated their call on the Washington Redskins NFL franchise to change its name and logo.

“’Redskin’ is a racial slur that references the deplorable treatment of American Indians that has been a significant part of this country’s history,” Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who heads Reform’s Religious Action Center, said in a letter delivered Monday to the franchise’s headquarters by “Change the Mascot,” a group advocating for the change.

“The logo, seemingly attempting to draw upon the archetype of an Indian warrior, blatantly mocks a culture that struggles to survive,” said the letter, addressed to Dan Snyder, who is Jewish, and who in the past has called on Jewish groups to defend him against what he perceived to be anti-Jewish slurs.

Also writing to the team was the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis.

“The intransigence of Redskins ownership is appalling, particularly in light of the tremendous offense that Native American Indians continue to experience as a result of the team’s inappropriate, insulting name,” said the letter signed by Rabbi Denise Eger, the CCAR president, and Rabbi Steven Fox, its CEO.

Reform bodies have advocated for a change of name for the team for decades. The Anti-Defamation League has also repeatedly called for a name-change.

Why campus anti-racism protests are bad for the Jews


A day before University of Missouri graduate student Jonathan Butler made headlines with a hunger strike protesting racism on campus, a coalition of 36 Jewish and civil rights organizations contacted University Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to protest a vile act of anti-Semitism that had recently occurred at Mizzou: Someone had used feces to smear a swastika on a bathroom wall.

In our letter, we criticized Loftin for not promptly and publicly addressing this act, which targeted Jewish students and made them feel threatened and unsafe. Little did we know that Butler, in an open letter to the university’s leadership in early November, would cite the swastika as his last straw, the latest in a “a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic” incidents that drove him to swear off all food unless the university president was removed.

The threats worked. Less than a week after beginning his hunger strike, Mizzou President Tim Wolfe stepped down. Hours later, Loftin followed suit.

For those of us who had urged Loftin to publicly condemn the swastika, the question looming large in our minds was: Would Butler’s actions help our right against anti-Semitism at Mizzou?

There was every reason to be optimistic. After all, Butler’s successful protest was directed toward administrators who had not responded promptly to campus discrimination. Surely anti-Semitism requires the same vigorous treatment as racism, sexism and homophobia. Why shouldn’t the spotlight Butler was shining on the unacceptable discrimination and harassment of African-American, female and LGBTQ students also illuminate the rising threat Jewish students face regularly?

In no time, that question took on national significance. Butler’s hunger strike has sparked a national student movement demanding an end to “systemic and structural racism.” Again we asked, could this be a positive development for Jewish students, who themselves suffer systemic and structural anti-Semitism? On far too many campuses Jewish students report being harassed, assaulted, threatened, vilified and discriminated against, their property defaced and destroyed, and their events disrupted and shut down. Could this new anti-racism movement finally help provide Jewish students the attention they deserve?

Unfortunately, the current rash of campus protests has shown itself to be far more likely to hurt Jewish students than to help them. There are three main reasons why.

First, university administrators are less likely to address anti-Semitism in the wake of the Mizzou-inspired protests. In part, this is because administrators are so overwhelmed with meeting or deflecting the demands of protesters — and making sure they themselves do not meet the same fate as Mizzou’s president and chancellor — they simply do not have the time or energy to focus on Jewish students.

Administrators are also afraid of appearing to favor Jewish students. Recently, I called a top administrator at the University of Central Florida to discuss some neo-Nazi fliers that had been posted in and around UCF dormitories. I expressed my dismay that although the fliers had been discovered several days before, the university had yet to make a public statement about them. The administrator responded that he was afraid to do so lest it be seen by campus protesters as pandering to Jewish interests and lead to further campus unrest. University administrators too busy or too scared to address anti-Semitism leave Jewish students vulnerable and unprotected.

Second, anti-Israel student groups who often target Jewish students for harassment and discrimination have opportunistically aligned themselves with anti-racism protesters to more forcefully promote their anti-Zionist agenda. At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, for example, anti-Israel groups have insinuated into the protesters’ demands a call for UNC to immediately divest from “Israeli apartheid.” The manipulative injection of such demands into the anti-racism movement and the alliances being forged will likely make the campus climate even more hostile, threatening and unsafe for Jewish students.

Finally, Jewish students themselves have been accused of racism for speaking out about the anti-Semitism they experience. For example, on an official University of California, Santa Cruz website dedicated to educating the campus community about subtle forms of bigotry known as “microaggressions,” one of the examples given is a Jewish student’s statement to an African-American student: “I don’t get why you’re excluding me like this. I’m Jewish; I know oppression.”

Even though the Jewish student is simply expressing feelings of marginalization and oppression, the statement is considered a microaggression because of the student’s socioeconomic status. Indeed, in a campus climate hypersensitive to the intersectionality of race and class, Jewish students may not even be able to talk about anti-Semitism without being labeled racist.

While no one knows for sure how long the current campus unrest will last or how much impact it will ultimately have, there are clear signs that Jewish students will not be among its beneficiaries and are quite likely to be among its greatest casualties.

(Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the co-founder and director of the Amcha Initiative, a nonprofit that combats campus anti-Semitism.)

‘Black lives matter’: it requires more than rhetoric


Everyone agrees that “Black lives matter.” The question that persists and transcends the rhetoric is how to minimize those deaths. A new study is critically important to understanding the events that have animated so many across the country.

Although the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement argues that the problem is inherent police bias and racism, a new paper suggests the real problem is far more complex and that race bias plays little, if any, role in the disproportionate number of African-American deaths at the hands of law enforcement.

Black Lives Matter has purveyed a narrative that “Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” That belief leads not only to activism but to a rejection of “respectability politics” (their words).

So entrenched has its worldview become that BLM adherents have no compunction about shouting down presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, both liberals, to evidence their displeasure. One of their spokesmen accused the L.A. mayor of having “neglected, disrespected and abused the Black community for far too long” as it disrupted his presentation at an African-American church.

Ever since the death of Trayvon Martin (which gave birth to the movement) and the later deaths of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Michael Brown, there has been virtually universal acceptance of the notion that cops are out to target and kill Blacks — daring to suggest that all lives matter is considered heresy.

If you doubt the pervasiveness of their viewpoint, try convincing a millennial that the situation is more complex than BLM presents it. Try suggesting that anecdotal evidence of six or 10 cases across a country of 350 million people with about 34,000 arrests per day does not tell a complete story — it’s a tough slog.

The reality is that data that would support the claim that law enforcement is targeting Blacks for “demise” are woefully inadequate. Neither the FBI nor the National Center for Health Statistics keeps consistent reliable data; their “totals can vary wildly,” according to The New York Times. As the Times reported in 2014, “Whether or not racial bias is a significant factor in police homicides is very much an open question.”

Despite that uncertainty, the protests continue and the given wisdom remains given.

But recently, Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan published a thoughtful, data-driven article that seeks to divine what the official data don’t by themselves reveal. He extrapolates from what is known and draws conclusions.

Mullainathan concludes that, indeed, Blacks are being killed by cops at a disproportionately higher rate (about two and a half times their percentage of the population) but it is likely not the result of bigotry on the part of the police.

Although bias may enter the equation, the fact that Blacks have such a disproportionately higher number of encounters with police results in multiple problems. Every police encounter contains a risk: The officer might be poorly trained, might act with malice or simply make a mistake, and civilians might do something that is perceived as a threat. The omnipresence of guns exaggerates all these risks.

Such risks exist for people of any race — after all, many people killed by police officers are not Black. But having more encounters with police officers, even with officers entirely free of racial bias, can create a greater risk of a fatal shooting.

The article reveals that the percentage of Black arrestees (28.9 percent) and the percentage of descriptions (by victims and witnesses) of suspects who are Black (30 percent) is sufficiently close to the 31.8 percent of the police shooting victims who are African-American to suggest that “if police discrimination were a big factor in the actual killings, we would have expected a larger gap between the arrest rate and the police-killing rate.”

He deals with the possibility that Blacks may be arrested disproportionately to other groups because of racism but suggests that the more likely reasons are the higher percentage of descriptions of suspects (noted above) who are Black and the deployment of police to high-crime areas that tend to be poor and disproportionately Black — two reasons not ascribable to racism by individual cops.

Mullainathan does not argue that police bias might not play a role in the death of African Americans at the hands of police but rather that even if one eliminated “the biases of all police officers [it] would do little to materially reduce the total number of African American killings.”

He does not despair that there is nothing that can be done, but rather he asserts that the focus should be on drug laws and their enforcement. Those laws are among the main reasons that Blacks are more frequently arrested.

If the laws did not so heavily target drug sellers and the disparity between the punishment for crack cocaine (more widely used by African-Americans) and powder cocaine (by whites) were reduced, Black arrest and incarceration rates might decline. If society can reduce the number of encounters that occur between cops and Blacks, the likelihood of bad things happening will also be reduced.

Congress, in one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement, is likely to reduce drug crimes and incarceration rates this year in an attempt to make them fairer, more effective and less costly.

Clearly, this is a complex phenomenon with multiple moving parts — there are no simple answers and there is much work to be done. But what seems equally clear from the data is that cops are responding to the laws that are on the books, and the actions they see and that are reported to them — they are not a collection of bigots out to abuse, disrespect and murder the Black community.


David A. Lehrer is the president of Community Advocates Inc., a Los Angeles-based human relations organization chaired by former L.A. Mayor Richard J. Riordan. For 27 years, he served locally with the Anti-Defamation League, as its counsel and regional director. Joe R. Hicks is a political commentator and vice president of Community Advocates Inc.

Most religious Zionists want Arabs out of Israel, study finds


During the previous wave of terror in Israel, 11 months ago, Jewish Home party chairman Naftali Bennett said in a speech, “99.9 percent of Arab-Israelis are loyal to the State of Israel, and there’s a very small minority that acts against it.”

Apparently, his religious Zionist constituency disagrees.

A new poll by the Miskar agency, which surveys Israel’s religious Zionist population, found high levels of antagonism and mistrust toward Arab-Israelis. Contrary to polls of Arab-Israelis themselves, most religious Zionists believe that Arab-Israelis are hostile to Israel. A large majority see Arab-Israelis as a threat and would like to see the government push them to leave the country.

“The religious Zionist sector takes very extreme and unequivocal positions in terms of Israeli Arabs’ loyalty to the state, their posing an immediate and long-term security danger, and the need, therefore, for declarations of loyalty and a prepared plan for [population] transfer,” the poll’s analysis section read.

The pollsters surveyed 480 religious Zionists — defined by Jewish observance level and self-identification. The margin of error was 4.5 percent. Here’s a closer look at some of the major findings.

Religious Zionists view Arab-Israelis as an existential threat to the country. Four-fifths of religious Zionists believe Muslim Arab-Israelis are hostile to Israel and its Jewish citizens. Nearly 70 percent believe they pose a short-term existential threat to Israel, and 84 percent believe they pose a long-term existential threat. Less than one-fifth believe Arab-Israelis oppose violence and want to integrate into Israeli society.

These findings contradict the stated feelings of Arab-Israelis. According to a 2014 Israel Democracy Institutepoll, nearly 60 percent of Arab-Israelis “feel part of the State of Israel and its problems.” Nearly two-thirds feel proud to be an Israeli. Forty percent say integrating Jews and Arabs should be Israel’s top priority.

Most religious Zionists want Arab-Israelis to leave. A majority of religious Zionists support reopening a public discussion about the forced transfer of Arab-Israelis from the state. Three-quarters want the government to prepare a practical plan to encourage Muslim Arab-Israelis to emigrate. And should Arab Muslims stay in Israel, two-thirds of religious Zionists believe they should have to swear a loyalty oath to the state.

Most religious Zionists boycott Arab businesses. Seventy percent of religious Zionists support a boycott of Arab businesses. Less than 38 percent believe economic cooperation between Arab and Jewish Israelis is important.

Religious Zionists don’t believe Israel is racist toward Arabs. Only one-third of religious Zionists believe Arab-Israelis face significant racism. Only 17 percent believe Arab Muslims have difficulty integrating because of discrimination. And only 30 percent believe Arab-Israeli communities suffer from a lack of government investment, despite research showing that Israeli Jews receive greater government investment per capita than Arabs.

According to theIsrael Democracy Institute poll, a majority of Arabs-Israelis do feel discriminated against.

Two seconds: An exploration of racial (in)justice and privilege in the United States


On Friday July 10, at 7:22 a.m., Steve Julian, the host of KPCC’s Morning Edition reported the following, “About 20 minutes ago a Color Guard in South Carolina lowered the Confederate flag at the state capitol, stretched it out, rolled it up, tied a string around it. That flag no longer flies.”

☻☻☻

In the summer before my sophomore year of high school, my family moved from Orange County, California, to Nixa, a small town in Southwest Missouri.  I started at Nixa High School two months later.  A few new realities hit me too slowly.  In reviewing these facts twenty years later, it seems as if they would have been immediately obvious.  But, as a 15 year-old, I remember them striking me in the chest as sharp realizations.  I confronted them first in US History class:

· This is not California.  I am living in a new state with a different capitol and a different history. 

· Missouri was divided during the Civil War.

· Nixa was in the South.

· There is a Civil War battleground a few miles from my house.

· I have classmates wearing Confederate flag t-shirts.  I have classmates who display Confederate flags on the back windows of their pickups.

It had never dawned on me before that moment to think that much about the Civil War, our nation’s history of slavery, or Civil Rights.  My family had moved to the South and I hadn’t even realized it. 

The battle of Wilson’s Creek took place on August 10, 1861.  The battlefield lies 9 miles northwest of my family home.  According to the Civil War Trust, “This Confederate victory buoyed southern sympathizers in Missouri and served as a springboard for a bold thrust north….  Wilson’s Creek, the most significant 1861 battle in Missouri, gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri.”[1]

I was living 9 miles from a battleground that decided the fate of the new state in which I was living, making my new hometown a part of the south.  And I had no idea.

This is the definition of white privilege.  I moved to an essentially all white school in the middle of nowhere and I never once thought about my safety.

☻☻☻

I was living in Israel on September 11, 2001 and was out of the country for the first months of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Living in Israel at this time meant living smack in the middle of the Second Intifada. We listened to bombs exploding as we fell asleep at night.  When I finally returned home to the US in May and I approached the passport counter, I remember feeling very American.  And, I surprised myself when, looking into the eyes a uniformed Border Control agent, what I felt was incredibly safe. Throughout my life, when I have looked at law enforcement officers, I have felt safe.

☻☻☻

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, was pulled over on July 10, 2015, for failing to signal a lane change.  And then the situation “escalated.”  The truth is: “escalated” is a euphemism for what happened next.  Let’s be clear here, at this point, the encounter between Sandra Bland and State Trooper Brian Encinia should have been over. Bland had been issued her traffic citation and she should have been free to go.  Instead, Encinia asked Sandra if she was ok.  She told him she was irritated.  She said she was changing lanes to get out of his way and now she was getting a ticket and she was irritated.  Actually, what she said was, “I am a little irritated.”[2]

Encinia then asked Bland to put out her cigarette.  She said, “I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?”  He said, “Well, you can step on out now.” 

You can step on out now. 

And then the officer who pulled Sandra over proceeded to threaten her with a stun gun, “I will light you up,” he said.  “I am going to drag you out of there.”

And then he pulled her from her vehicle.  He handcuffed her.  She said he pushed her to the ground.  She was charged with assaulting a public servant. Bland was arrested and taken to jail.  In released video footage from the jail, we see her emerging from the bathroom after changing out of the long dress she was wearing into an orange jumpsuit.  As she sits down on a bench, next to the folded mattress and blanket she had just been issued, we see her wiping her eyes. 

I wonder: At what point did her outrage mix with blood chilling fear?

Three days later, she was found dead, strangled in her cell with a trashcan liner around her neck.  Her death is being investigated as a murder.

Why?  How?  How in the world is this possible?  In the United States.  In 2015.  How?  How is a woman threatened with a stun gun, pulled out of her car, handcuffed, and arrested?  For failing to signal a lane change. 

☻☻☻

On November 22, 2014, a man in Cleveland, Ohio, made a call to 911.  The caller reported seeing a person, he thought it was a juvenile, holding a gun, he thought it was fake.

Video images released after the fact show a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, playing with an airsoft gun.[3]  When I saw the video, that is just what I saw.  A boy playing with a toy gun.  He reminded me of my nephew.  What happened next is horrifically unimaginable.  Except it was very real.  Cleveland Police officer Tim Loehmann and his partner arrived on the scene. 

One one thousand.  Two one thousand.  Bang. 

Two seconds.

That is how long from when Loehmann arrived on the scene to when he shot Tamir Rice dead.

Two seconds.

He was a 12-year-old boy.

When I first saw the video, I was sure it was a time-lapse reel.  I was sure the footage had been accelerated.  In fact, I tried googling the unaltered original.  But, no.  What I was seeing was unedited, real.  A police officer pulling up to a scene, jumping out of his car, and shooting a child dead. 

Minutes later, Tamir’s 14 year-old sister came running up.  She saw her brother lying dead.  She rushed to him.  Police tackled her to the ground and put her in handcuffs.[4]  I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma she experienced at the hands of law enforcement that day.  14 years old.  12 years old.  These children were b’nai mitzvah age.

☻☻☻

When I first saw the video of Sandra Bland’s arrest I started to cry.  What if that were me?  I was breathless, shaking, imagining the fear she must have felt, face slammed into the ground.  I’m sure I would have been angry and defiant and outraged.  And so incredibly scared. 

But, of course, this would never happen to me.  Not in a million years.

This is my white privilege.  I am free to drive my car.  And, if I do something wrong, I may or may not be pulled over for a traffic stop.  And, if I were to get frustrated at a stop, I can easily imagine it being excused.  And, I would drive away.

☻☻☻

In a conversation about white privilege, a colleague once challenged me with the following:  Privilege means believing that you can work the system.  Any system. That you can talk your way out of things, that you can negotiate, that you can change an outcome. And you can do all this with a feeling of confidence.  And safety.

☻☻☻

A recent poll shows that 55% of Californians and 85% of African-Americans in California believe that “blacks and other minorities do not receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system.”[5]  A 2015 report by a police department in California found that blacks were stopped twice as often as their driving age demographic representation, and that blacks and Latinos were searched at three and two times the rate of whites, respectively.[6]

☻☻☻

This summer I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me.  The book is composed as a letter, from Coates to his sixteen-year-old son.  He writes the book in response to his son’s feelings of despair when he learns that the police officers responsible for Michael Brown’s death and for subsequently leaving his body to roast for four hours in the summer heat on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri, would go free.[7]

Coates describes the moment like this:

That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free.  The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished.  It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished.  But you were young and still believed.  You stayed up till 11 p.m. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying.  I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you.  I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay.[8]

Coates reveals a heartbreaking truth.  He goes on to explain:

What I know is that when they loosed the killer of Michael Brown, you said, “I’ve got to go.”  And that cut me because, for all our differing worlds, at your age my feeling was exactly the same.  And I recall that even then I had not yet begun to imagine the perils that tangle us.  You still believe the injustice was Michael Brown.  You have not yet grappled with your own myths and narratives and discovered the plunder everywhere around us.[9]

Each time a police officer engages us, death, injury, maiming is possible.  It is not enough to say that this is true of anyone or more true of criminals.[10]

☻☻☻

In reading Coates’ letter to his son, so full of a father’s raw feelings of fear and love and loss and anger, I couldn’t help but think of my own ten-month-old daughter.

Dear Sela,

You were born eight days before Tamir Rice was shot dead.  You came into this world filled with promise and future.  In your first seconds of life, I held you to my chest and you looked into my eyes, and I thought, “I know you.”  And know you, I did.  My heart burst with a love I could not have imagined possible and such feelings of hope.

In the weeks after you were born, a family friend, who is African American, told the following story to your mom:  Her 10 year-old son was playing in the backyard and he jumped the fence to get his ball back when it flew over into the neighbor’s yard.  When she saw her son, walking along the back of the house, head framed by his hoodie, she went ice cold with fear.  She sat him down.  “You cannot jump fences,” she said.  You never know who could see you and what they could think.  Maybe your white friends can jump a fence to get a ball.  But you cannot.  Ever.  He looked at her.  Afraid, confused, amused.  What could possibly happen to him for jumping a fence?

My dear sweet, little girl this is what I want for you:  To grow up in a country where every child is allowed to be a child.  To make foolish mistakes and live to learn from them.  To play with a toy.  To jump a neighbor’s fence.  To fetch a lost ball.  To walk down the street holding candy and soda.  To wear a sweatshirt.  To feel safe.

☻☻☻

What Coates is trying to get through to his son is that the shooting of Michael Brown was not an isolated event.  Nor was Sandra Bland being pulled over, nor her arrest.  Tamir Rice’s murder was not a fluke of the system.[11]

TIOH’s Social Action Vice President, Heidi Segal, who has had an extensive law career working within the criminal justice system, worked hard to impress Coates’ point upon me. She explained:

Discretion is a necessary feature of our criminal justice system, and when exercised properly it can even promote a fairer and more just result, as opposed to a system that has mandatory sentencing.  I think that the problem with our system is that there are so many points where discretion is exercised, and it generally goes unchecked and with no transparency. This is where racial and other biases come into play.  “And that is where the impact can be both immediate and tragic – like Michael Brown and Sandra Bland, and also more subtle, long-ranging. 

What Heidi is describing is systemic and institutionalized racism. 

☻☻☻

One month ago, on August 19, I arrived at Ebenezer Baptist West Church in Athens, Georgia, along with 25 others marchers.  That day, I took 32,000 steps for justice, walking 15 of the 860 miles that separate Selma, Alabama, from Washington, D.C.  I joined a contingency of almost 200 Reform Rabbis who helped make the journey, carrying a sefer torah, a Torah scroll the entire length of the march.  The Journey for Justice was focused on issues of education, economic inequality, youth, voting rights, and criminal justice reform.[12]

Throughout the day, I marched with the President and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.  After the walk, I had the chance to share dinner with Mr. Brooks, and he shared the following story with our table:  One night, I was driving home from work and a police car pulled me over.  I stopped and immediately rolled down my windows, turned on the light in my car, put my wallet – driver’s license and insurance card up – on the dashboard, and put my hands on the wheel, as I always do when I am pulled over.  The officer came up to my window and asked, “Why did you pull over?”  I answered him:  “I pulled over because you pulled me over.”  Then he asked me, “What are you doing out here?”  I answered:  “I’m driving home.  I’ve worked a long day and I’m exhausted.  I’m just trying to drive home.”  The officer looked back at me, “I’ve worked a long day too.  And, I’m just trying to drive home too.” 

And that is when Mr. Brooks realized:  The officer had not pulled him over.  He was so conditioned to a police car following him to detain him, that he had pulled himself over.

☻☻☻

There is a problem with racial profiling in this country.  In this state.  And, what I have learned is that people of color have millions and millions of stories that sound a lot like Mr. Brooks’.  Heidi Segal continued her explanation:

It all starts with an officer’s discretion in pulling over or stopping an individual, the decision whether to search that person, the decision whether or not to arrest them, the decision to charge, the decision of what the charges should be – infraction, misdemeanor, felony, the decision to ask for bail, the decision to set bail, the decision to take the case to trial or offer a plea bargain, and what the sentence should be. And even later, what happens to them when they get incarcerated, when they will be released, and the conditions set on them.  It goes on and on. The point is that once you are in that system, you are at the mercy of these unchecked discretionary decisions.

It all starts with an officer’s discretion.  Listen to that statistic that I shared with you a few minutes ago, once again:  A 2015 report by a police department in California found that blacks were stopped twice as often as their driving age demographic representation, and that blacks and Latinos were searched at three and two times the rate of whites, respectively.[13]

And so, even if we, as individuals, hold firmly to a belief that we, individually, have transcended racism as we understand it, we are still responsible.  We have to make real and deep changes to transcend the privilege that is automatically extended to many of us, and join together in dismantling the systemic and institutionalized racism that permeates too many areas of the social and legal fibers of our country.

How do we begin to change a shockingly broken criminal justice system?  We stop the encounter before it starts. 

In the state of California, Reform Jews from over a hundred congregations, in connection with Reform CA, are working to pass AB 953, a piece of legislation that will respond to the problem of racial and identity profiling, as well as call on law enforcement to have more transparency. 

This legislation will make it illegal for law enforcement officers to profile someone not only based on race, but also based on gender identity, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation. 

This legislation will require peace officers to be transparent about the date, time, and location of a stop.  The reason for the stop.  The result of the stop (even if it resulted in no action).  Finally, officers will be asked to report what they perceived the race or ethnicity, gender, and approximate age of the person to be.

I discussed this notion of transparency with a sheriff’s deputy.  He explained to me that public perception of law enforcement in our state is skewed.  He explained that this sort of profiling is not occurring.  AB 953 will build trust between the community and law enforcement.  We will be able to see real data regarding those points of discretion Heidi taught us about.  From the very first moment.  And, if there is a problem of profiling, this bill gives our state the ability to respond to it.  It calls for the formation of a non-partisan Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, which will review and respond to these issues.

This bill has already passed the Senate and is heading back to the State Assembly.  Now all we need is for Governor Brown to sign it into law.  But, our governor is wavering.  He needs to know that this law matters to us.  One of the action steps I want to invite you to take today is to fill out a pledge card, pledging your support to learn more about this bill, and, hopefully, to take the concrete action of making a phone call or sending an email to our Governor, asking him to sign this bill into law. 

The other invitation I have for you is to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book and join me and an activist I met on the Journey for Justice, Keshia Thomas, in a conversation about Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, criminal justice, and the goals for the Journey for Justice in October.  Keshia and I are still settling on the exact date because, after 45 days and 860 miles of marching, Keisha Thomas is taking her last steps into Washington DC as we speak.  And so, even though we began planning as she marched down rural roads of Virginia, we still are working on setting an exact date.  If you don’t know Keshia Thomas’ story, remember her name and google her later or ask me about her during the luncheon.  She is not a speaker you will want to miss.

☻☻☻

Here is what I have left to say, a message I have, in fact, been delivering all along:

In his sermon on Rosh HaShanah, the thirteenth century rabbi Ramban questions why Torah calls Nissan (the Hebrew month in the spring during which we celebrate Passover) the first month and it calls Tishrei (the month we began yesterday) the seventh month.  Ramban explains that Nissan is indeed, the first month of the year, when you look at the world through the prism of the Jews.  The exodus from Egypt, which happened in Nissan, marks our people’s real beginning.  It is the beginning of our story. 

Rosh HaShanah, on the other hand, is the beginning of the world’s story.  It celebrates the birth of humanity, the totality of existence, the world.  Throughout time, Jews have marked this new year, the universal day one, as the first day of our New Year.  Our own story of redemption has a part in the mix, but it is not at the forefront.

Our tradition has always been clear:  On Rosh HaShanah, our responsibility is to see our own existence in a global context.  This is the time we are meant to look outward in order to look inward.  This is the time to see:  The world’s story is our story.  Our neighbor’s narrative is our narrative.  Our brother’s plight is our plight.  Our sister’s struggle is our struggle.

And so, today I mourn the loss of twenty-eight-year-old Sandra Brown, who was excited to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University, and Tamir Rice, a sixth grader at Marion-Seltzer Elementary School.  I highlight the story of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the tears of his son Samori.  I tell my own story and I hope, make space for you to imagine yours.

On this, the day in which Jewish tradition invites us to look at ourselves and the world around us and recommit ourselves to the tikkun, the repair, of them both 

On this, the day on which we celebrate another 364 opportunities to wake committed to healing…

On this day, I declare:  Let 5776 be a year of tzedek, a year of justice.  Let 5776 be the year we take collective action.  Let 5776 be the year that everything begins to change.

Shanah Tovah, may this be a good year for all of us.


[1]http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/wilsonscreek.html?referrer=https://www.google.com

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/07/22/what-cops-are-saying-about-the-sandra-bland-video/

[3] http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-tamir-rice-investigation-documents-20150613-story.html

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/us/in-tamir-rice-shooting-in-cleveland-many-errors-by-police-then-a-fatal-one.html

[5] http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_0951-1000/ab_953_cfa_20150511_173248_asm_comm.html

[6] http://dignityandpowernow.org/ab-953-imagining-an-existence-without-racial-profiling/

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/us/michael-brown-a-bodys-timeline-4-hours-on-a-ferguson-street.html?_r=0

[8] Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, 11.

[9] Coates 21.

[10] Coates, 131.

[11] http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/officer-who-killed-tamir-rice-found-unfit-previous-police-job

[12] http://www.naacp.org/ajfj

[13] http://dignityandpowernow.org/ab-953-imagining-an-existence-without-racial-profiling/

Letters to the editor: The evil you know, racial disparities and more


The Evil You Know …

I support the views of Rep. Adam Schiff and Rob Eshman that the present deal may be better than no deal (“What If There’s No Deal?” Aug. 7). America, in 1945, taught the world a bitter lesson in atomic warfare, explained in two words: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, at least five other countries developed the atomic bomb. Some of them were hostile and antagonistic to each other. Yet, none dared to use it to settle international disputes. Iran is slowly learning that dollars may be better for its people than bombs.

Ken Lautman, Los Angeles  

Rob Eshman said it magnificently and fairly with clarity and courage. He left me in tears. Thank you, Rob.

Gail Heim via email

Racial Disparities: Deliberate or Ignorant?

The Jewish Journal deserves plaudits for its culturally sensitive reporting, but there were two pieces in the Aug. 7 issue that made my “race-dar” spike:

1) Steve Greenberg’s cartoon about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement: I am no supporter of BDS, but Greenberg’s decision to portray the “face” of the movement as brown is a racist distortion. BDS was created by Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, representing a people generally considered Caucasian and not measurably “browner” than the average Israeli. Since the movement’s founding, people of widely diverse backgrounds — including many Jews in and outside of Israel — have joined its ranks. Many readers will doubtless recall a recent tense family gathering in which the pros and cons of BDS were argued. I certainly do.

2) Joe Hicks’ account of the Watts Riots (“Fifty Years After ‘Burn, Baby! Burn!’ ”) excoriates the more than 30,000 rioters as “nihilists” and willful dupes of pro-violence black activists, while downplaying the role of virulently racist police practices (which he wonders were perhaps just “insensitive”). Incredibly, he wonders how a riot could possibly happen immediately after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. If he had read the other excellent Journal article on the subject by Raphael Sonenshein (“Watts: The Day the Mirror Cracked,”), he might have recalled how Californians had, the previous November, voted in Proposition 14, permitting racial discrimination in housing.

He would have us believe that legislation and affirmative action have ended racism. In fact, racially discriminatory practices are still employed on a nationwide scale in many forms. You have to get through nearly the whole article before finding Hicks’ weak disclaimer that he doesn’t think “black Americans don’t have social or cultural problems in 2015.” But he lays the blame squarely at the door of black “radicals” and their credulous liberal dupes. Note also his dismissal of voter ID laws as “not disenfranchisement,” when numerous proponents of such laws have explicitly stated their discriminatory intent. 

It is plausible to deny the disparity between these two (or more) Americas are discriminatory in intent. However, if you accidentally run over someone, they’re still dead. To look the other way because it was an accident, to fail to recognize the deep emotional pain this disparity causes, is to divide the world into “us” and “them.” It is today’s socially acceptable form of soft racism. 

Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen, Sherman Oaks

Thank you, Theo

Thank you so much for the heartfelt article about this Jewish and American icon (“Crossing Borders: A Tribute to Theo Bikel,” July 31). I was introduced to Theo by the great and talented Cantor Mike Stein and took part in a bunch of song circles with Theo. A man that gave so much to our society will leave a lasting mark on the American and Jewish people. I was honored to have been in the same room with such a giant and hear his music in such an intimate space. The Jewish people have lost one of its greatest.

Jeff Gold via email

California’s Conservation Conversation

Great piece by Glenn Yago on what California can learn from Israel in dealing with our drought (“High-Tech New Water: Next Steps for Sustainable Water Solutions in California,” Aug. 7). Now all we need are leaders who have the guts to implement 21st-century solutions. Example: Our Southland lawns look like 1950s “Father Knows Best” America. Let’s move on already.

Aviyah Farkas, Los Angeles

correction

An article about the work of Elana Sztokman (“Let’s Talk About Sex,” Aug. 7) incorrectly stated that Sztokman moved to Modi’in in 1993; she moved to Jerusalem in 1993 and later settled in Modi’in with her family. It also stated that both she and her husband are nondenominational Jews; Sztokman has identified as “non-Orthodox” for two years, while her husband identifies as Orthodox. Sztokman’s next telecourse, “Hunger,” is one of many she will offer in the fall, not the only one. The article also suggested Sztokman only “designed curricula” for Orthodox women; she has worked with Orthodox women in many capacities.

Editorial Cartoon: That could have been us


Death in Charleston: Trapped by the tragic, unheeded lessons of the nation’s racial past


America's latest incident of racial violence, the massacre of nine people at historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., echoes some of the horrific scenes out of the civil-rights era. A young white shooter allegedly committed mass murder at a sacred space of black activism, spiritual renewal and educational commitment. The slaughter provides a stark reminder of the way in which racial violence has been used to limit the hopes and aspirations of the black freedom struggle.

Following a white North Charleston police officer's killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed African-American, which was captured on a cellphone camera, the Charleston killings look to be the second act this year of lethal anti-black violence to emerge out of South Carolina, a state that proudly flies the Confederate flag over the State Capitol building.

The nation's contemporary racial climate evokes images that, shorn of social media's ubiquitous presence, would not seem out of place 50 years ago, during Selma's roiling voting-rights protests or, indeed, a century before that in the aftermath of the Civil War and the end of antebellum slavery.

In 1964, music legend Sam Cooke released “A Change Is Gonna Come,” one of the most important songs recorded during the civil-rights era. The song's genius lay in its ability to capture in miniature racial oppression's personal intimacy, political impact and policy reverberations.

Cooke's passionate narrative of Jim Crow's unforgiving assault on black bodies contained the dual recognition that racial segregation also harmed the American body politic. “It's been a long time, a long time coming,” he lamented, “But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

For many, President Barack Obama's watershed election in 2008, and re-election in 2012, ushered in audacious change on a scale that Cooke and the generation of civil- rights activists who battled Jim Crow could have scarcely dreamed of. The euphoria accompanying Obama's inauguration included open, often self-congratulatory discussion that the United States had finally achieved a new “post-racial” age in which race mattered less than it ever had.

The age of Obama made the sight of a black first lady and attorney general and the presence of powerful African-American civic, business, and cultural leaders seem ordinary. In 2012, for the first time in history, the percentage of the black-voter turnout exceeded that of whites. Racial progress, as manifested through Obama's political and personal biography, became the dominant narrative of American race relations.

But hidden beneath the pageantry of the first family's extraordinary achievements was another country, one in which millions of African-Americans resided far away from the spotlight of mainstream narratives of success or myths of post-racialism.

The rise of mass incarceration, proliferating rates of poverty, public school segregation and high unemployment remained defiantly persistent in too many black communities. Residential segregation, scant job opportunities and failing public schools were, in our post-civil-rights era, passed down ways of life that were exacerbated, not relieved, by public-policy choices that reinforced urban and suburban ghettoes.

The roiling #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations, urban uprisings in Baltimore, Maryland, and Ferguson, Missouri, anti-black police violence in McKinney, Texas, and now a mass shooting in South Carolina echo the racial turmoil, political protests and community organizing of the civil-rights era. Then, as now, African-Americans lived under a regime of racial oppression that constrained their life chances.

On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy characterized civil rights as a “moral issue” and told the nation, “Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.”

Perhaps none acted as boldly as Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer. Malcolm, the Harlem-based black nationalist and Muslim preacher spoke truth to power in bone-rattling sermons that exposed American democracy's contradictions even as he empowered African-Americans by re-imagining the expansiveness of black identity. Baker, a feminist and radical labor activist, organized the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a group that breathed new life into American society by bleeding for democracy alongside poor black folk in the South.

King found his clearest voice in championing the poor, speaking out against the Vietnam War and calling out the United States as an imperialist power, the world's foremost purveyor of violence and an unapologetically racist nation.

Hamer, who remains less well known than she should, represented the organic intellectual. She was a sharecropper from Ruleville, Mississippi, who defied the politics of white supremacy at the 1964 Democratic National Convention by exposing racial violence, threats and harassment directed at people, like herself, who wanted dignity and equal citizenship. “Is this America?” she asked the nation.

More than half a century later, the answer to Hamer's question is a resounding yes. This is America, a nation where 28 percent of black people live below the poverty line, 40 percent of black children live in poverty and 46 percent of black children attend high-poverty schools. African-Americans, while only 12 percent of the U.S. population, make up 28 percent of all arrests and now make up 38 percent of prisoners in local jails and 39 percent in federal prisons.

As sociologist Monique W. Morris's important book “Black Stats” (from which I have drawn these figures) illuminates in panoramic scope, African-Americans reside on the margins of society regarding health, justice, employment, education, wealth and income. And yes, a nation in which the African-American church, the resounding symbol of freedom and progress during and after slavery, remains a primary target of racial terror in a supposedly post-racial age.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, America continues to embrace denial as a cure to the persistence – and at times growth – of national racial inequality. America's tortured legacy of slavery, racial segregation and violence against people of color continues to shape society's institutions, political philosophies and public policies.

The nation is, it seems, caught in a perpetual feedback loop – destined to repeat the tragic, unheeded lessons of a racial past that we refuse to acknowledge exists in our present.


Peniel E. Joseph is professor of history and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University. His most recent book is “Stokely: A Life.” He can be followed on Twitter at @penieljoseph. The opinions expressed here are his own.

From the Freedom Rides to the L.A. City Council


When traveling by air, rail, or bus across country on business or pleasure, I always recall the summer of 1961, when the Freedom Rides made interstate travel the democratic activity we take for granted.

Racial segregation on trains or in bus stations is unthinkable today. But I remember the days when it was the law or custom in many places, especially in the South. I was raised in New Orleans, and learned early from family what segregated life was like as a Negro and would probably be like for the rest of my life. I also remember the Freedom Rides. In August 1961, I was one of a group of 11 men and women who boarded a train from Los Angeles to Mississippi.

We Freedom Riders—some 400 or so people across the U.S.—bore witness to our conviction that segregation was illegal. We were a disciplined, organized, and racially mixed group. We rode trains, buses, and planes; we sought service at dining facilities, restrooms, and waiting rooms. And more often than not, we were arrested and jailed for violation of local laws. We expected to be incarcerated and were aware that there could be violence directed against us. But we were committed.   

Fifty-four years have passed since that summer—but just last weekend, I joined Ellen Broms from the L.A. Freedom Rider group in Sacramento. We met to travel together to memorial services for poet and fellow Freedom Rider Steve Sanfield. We joined Steve’s family, friends, and admirers at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center in Nevada City, California, site of the Sierra Storytelling Festival that Steve founded 30 years ago.

When I met him, Steve was working at the historic Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood. He was a recent graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts. He was gentle, an articulate man of conscience.

I had recently graduated from UCLA, where I was active in the L.A. chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). As a student, I served as a CORE liaison with student activists in the South. We spoke often by phone about what was going on there and how we could support their causes from Los Angeles. After graduation, I continued this work with CORE—talking and working with like-minded people like Steve and Ellen who sought an end to segregation and racial injustice in Los Angeles and across the nation.

We closely followed the Freedom Rides after they started in May. Riders were beaten and jailed, and a bus was firebombed outside of Anniston, Alabama. Students from Tennessee vowed that this violence would not stop the rides, and the movement picked up steam over the summer as activists joined them from across the U.S. by traveling to Jackson, Mississippi.

By August, the Freedom Rides were slowing down as focus shifted to action in the courts. Steve, Ellen and I—and other CORE activists and students in L.A.— were eager to participate in what turned out to be one of the last organized Freedom Rides. In preparation for our journey, we went through an orientation and training in CORE’s non-violent philosophy and tactics. No matter what happened—if someone spit on you, called you names, knocked you down—you pledged not to fight back.

We knew we were putting ourselves at great risk. But we were not deterred. Riders who were under 21 had to get permission from their parents. And all of us wrote our last wills and testaments.

We left L.A.’s Union Station on August 9, 1961. When our train arrived in Houston, the 11 of us from L.A. joined seven members of the Progressive Youth Association, mostly students from Texas Southern University. Our plan was to desegregate the coffee shop at Houston’s Union Station and then continue on to Jackson, Mississippi.

Our task as Freedom Riders was to sit down in places like that coffee shop—and then go to jail. The idea was to generate publicity to put pressure on lawmakers to make change. Segregationists called us “outside agitators,” which is exactly right. We did what local activists couldn’t have done without great personal risk to themselves and their families. Young people from other parts of the country (like Steve, Ellen, and me) didn’t need to worry about getting jobs—we weren’t planning to stick around. The only way to get to us was to take us into temporary custody.

It only took 45 minutes before we were arrested at the Union Station coffee shop. Local law enforcement knew a Freedom Ride was coming through and were waiting for us when we entered. Their vehicles were parked at the nearby curb. We took seats at the whites-only counter and requested service. We were refused. A police commander asked us to leave the premises. Not a single one of us moved, and he announced that we were all under arrest. We were ordered into the nearby vehicles and taken to jail. The process was smooth and efficient, much like going through an airline security check these days.

We were booked into the Harris County Jail, where we were segregated by gender and race in the jail’s general population. We black males were welcomed as heroes by the men in our tank once they found out that we were Freedom Riders. Of everyone—black and white, male and female—the white men received the worst treatment. Steve Sanfield, along with Steve McNichols and Robert Kaufman (all of whom are deceased now) and Joe Stevenson were beaten bloody by other prisoners, and carried physical and mental scars for the rest of their lives. Like many Freedom Riders, they paid a personal price to secure the right for all of us to travel without racial restrictions.

We spent a few weeks in jail. As soon as our lawyers visited and saw how the white riders were being abused, we were bailed out. We had our days in court and were found guilty of misdemeanor “unlawful assembly” charges. These charges were later overturned on appeal. Upon our release, I returned to Los Angeles with my fellow CORE members.

The rest is history. The violence against Freedom Riders and their incarceration got a huge amount of publicity across the U.S. and abroad. That attention, and the demands of the public, prodded President John F. Kennedy into action. In November 1961, his administration pressured the Interstate Commerce Commission to act.

And change came. The “whites only” and “colored” signs were removed from train station coffee shops and bus station restrooms. The Freedom Riders had secured an end to racial discrimination in interstate travel facilities, and freedom of movement for everyone. It was a crack in the massive scheme of segregation. I am proud to have been a part of it.

We L.A. Freedom Riders moved on with our lives. For me, that meant entering the new world of civic and electoral politics of Los Angeles, motivated by my experiences in the civil rights movement and my desire to help meet the need for a more representative government. For Ellen, it meant finishing her education and gaining employment as a social worker in California state government. For Steve, it was back to literature and a creative life as a storyteller, poet, author of children’s books, and builder of a cultural institution.

I recalled those days of August 1961 when I attended Steve Sanfield’s memorial last weekend. I thought of his courage—and the courage of every Freedom Rider—when I traveled by Greyhound, and walked through bus terminals free of the racial animus that we helped to eradicate.

Robert Farrell served as a member of Los Angeles City Council for the 8th District from 1974 to 1991. He is a graduate of UCLA. He wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zócalo Public Square.

U.S. Justice Department finds racial bias in Ferguson police practices


The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday concluded that the Ferguson, Missouri police department routinely engages in racially biased practices, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the department's findings.

The investigation into the police department began in August after the shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson sparked national protests.

The findings are expected to be formally released as early as Wednesday, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

The findings will be used by the Justice Department to either negotiate with Ferguson officials and enter a consent decree or, if negotiations fail, sue the city.

Analysis of over 35,000 pages of police records found that African Americans make up 93 percent of arrests in Ferguson while accounting for only 67 percent of the city's population, the official said.

African-Americans also made up the majority of the incidents in which officers used force and all of the incidents where dogs bit citizens, the official said.

In the city's court system, African Americans were less likely to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge and made up 95 percent of people held longer than two days in the Ferguson jail.

The Ferguson Municipal Court, which Attorney General Eric Holder has previously criticized for unfairly penalizing the city's poor, issued the majority of its warrants for minor violations such as parking, traffic and housing code violations.

Israel’s Rivlin seeks to cure ‘disease’ of racism


Israel’s president fills a largely ceremonial role — meeting with foreign dignitaries, representing the government at state funerals and other official gatherings. But the office’s new occupant has embraced a challenge not inherent to the job: curbing what he sees as an epidemic of anti-Arab racism.

“Israeli society is sick, and it is our duty to treat this disease,” Reuven Rivlin, 75, told a group of Israeli academics on Sunday.

The Likud party elder statesman has been Israel’s most vocal politician in recent history on issues of racial discrimination and violence within the Jewish state. And he’s taking on the issue at a particularly challenging moment, when as he explained in his speech, “the tension between Jews and Arabs within the State of Israel has risen to record heights, and the relationship between all parties has reached a new low.”

Of Israel’s population of some 8.9 million people, about 20 percent is Arab.

Strong condemnation of anti-Arab racism in Israel is generally the province of the country’s Arab and left-wing politicians. So Rivlin, who opposes Palestinian statehood and advocates annexing the West Bank, does not seem like an obvious candidate to take up the cause. But despite his position on the two-state solution, the president has a reputation for defending civil liberties and minority rights within the land that Israel controls.

Rivlin took office in July — as the war between Israel and Hamas intensified and just weeks after three Jewish extremists captured and burned alive a Palestinian teen. The teen’s murder was a revenge attack for the kidnapping and deadly shooting of three Israeli teenagers in June.

But nearly two months after a cease-fire was declared, Arab-Jewish tensions have not waned. Last Tuesday, Jewish extremists burned a West Bank mosque, damaging prayer books and rugs. The same day, reports emerged of three Jewish brothers beating a Palestinian construction worker. And the following day, Arab protesters at the Temple Mount injured three policemen in riots that continued across Jerusalem throughout the week.

Then on Sunday, dozens of Jews moved into buildings overnight in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, the second such move into the primarily Arab neighborhood this month. The next day, Arabs threw firebombs at the building in protest.

Rivlin has also called for an end to racism in high-profile TV appearances, in Facebook posts and at a recent dedication ceremony for a Jerusalem road bearing the name of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. And he made headlines last month when he notably recorded a video with an 11-year-old Arab-Israeli, George Amira, who had endured homophobic bullying at school. In the video, which went viral, Rivlin and George sit side by side in silence, holding up sheets of paper that call for an end to “violence, hostility, bullying, racism” in Israel.

“He said I was a courageous kid,” George told JTA. “He said he has friends who don’t have that courage.”

Former Likud minister Dan Margalit, who grew up with Rivlin in Jerusalem and served alongside him in Knesset, told JTA that Rivlin’s anti-racist activism stems from a commitment to traditional revisionist Zionism. The ideology espouses Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, including the West Bank, as well as democracy and minority rights for Israel’s Arab citizens.

Although he supports Israeli annexation of the West Bank, the former longtime Knesset member broke with his party by opposing a 2010 law that criminalized boycotts of goods produced in Israeli settlements. The same year, Rivlin attempted to block the Knesset from stripping an Arab-Israeli lawmaker of her parliamentary privileges as punishment for participating in the flotilla operation to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“Ruvi stayed the course,” Margalit said, using Rivlin’s nickname. “Racism is one of the worst attitudes and crimes you can think of. We were persecuted and killed by racists for generations, so to think there would be racism in our country is horrendous.”

Because Israel’s presidency is ceremonial, Rivlin’s power to advance policy changes is limited. Case in point: His predecessor, Shimon Peres, had little impact on Israeli government policy toward the Palestinians despite constantly calling for Israeli-Palestinian peace during his term.

“I think there’s a limit to what the president of the state can do,” said Gadi Gvaryahu, chairman of Light Tag, a coalition that opposes anti-Arab racism. “He can cry out from time to time, or protest from time to time, but the trends happening here are difficult and profound, and if the government doesn’t have a clear policy, even the president can’t influence.”

On the issue of racism, the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank that researches Israel’s democratic institutions, is developing a curriculum to teach tolerance and pluralism. It is also setting up a task force to review existing anti-racism laws in Israel.

Mordechai Kremnitzer, the institute’s vice president of research, met with Rivlin on Sunday and is optimistic that the president will endorse its initiatives.

Activists for Arab-Israeli rights told JTA that racism demands forceful action from Israeli lawmakers. But some said they appreciate that Rivlin is raising an issue that had been largely ignored and feel he is creating a more conducive atmosphere for coexistence.

“The Arab public finds itself in despair from the amount of racist incitement and racist attitudes that exist,” said Jafar Farah, chairman of Mossawa, an organization that advocates for Arab-Israeli rights. “When suddenly Rivlin’s voice rises, people say maybe there’s a chance. Maybe we can live a shared life in this state.”

 

Is Obama’s presidency done?


Is it too early to declare Barack Obama’s presidency a failure?  It seems to be the talk of Washington pundits lately and a new poll showed a clear majority thinks so.

When Obama came on the scene, I like others, warned that someone who had pretty much done nothing of significance short of giving a great speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and that alone did not show any gravitas, was not a good choice to be leader of the free world and commander in chief.

Before I continue, let me say this.  Although I did not vote for Obama, either time, I think it was a great thing for the country to elect a black president.  And because it was so historically significant, I even recorded his first inauguration, and I still have the tape.

But by the same token, I will also say, I get very tired of people who accuse critics of the president of being mentally deficient in some way, unpatriotic or worse, racist.  And the word “racist” continues to be the excuse du jour of those who just can’t say, “Yeah, our guy screwed up.  Again.”  Are there bigots who castigate Obama because he is black?  Of course.  Every ethnic and religious group has their haters.  There are white racists and black racists, and Christian and yes, even Jewish racists.  But the histrionics of many liberals to find the race card every time Obama is denounced, and he deserves it, believe me, is way out of control.

When Obama started his presidency in 2009, his popularity was close to 70%, even higher in some polls.  Now it is in the low 40’s, sometimes lower.  Did 30% of the country all of a sudden become stupid, unpatriotic or heaven forbid, racist?  Is Jimmy Carter – and in my opinion, Obama is mimicking his ineptitude – who just criticized Obama for waiting too long to confront ISIS, a racist?  (Wow, when even Jimmy Carter thinks you are too slow to act forcefully, Barack, you have a problem.)  Is Leon Panetta, the well-respected and highly experienced public servant (Army veteran, Congressman, Bill Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget Director and White House Chief of Staff, Obama’s CIA Director and Secretary of Defense), a racist?  It was OK to lambast both Bush’s and Ronald Reagan when they were president, and even call them racists (and a lot worse), but say Obama has screwed up, and well, you are a racist.  By the way, it is hard for some Democrats to label Panetta a racist so he is being called disloyal and even unpatriotic.  Right.  A guy who has devoted nearly his entire life to serving our country is unpatriotic.  And if he is being disloyal, good for him.  Loyalty to one’s country comes before loyalty to one’s boss.

[And I am sure we will hear more about the so-called “war on women” when Hillary Clinton finally ends her “tease tour” and officially announces her presidential candidacy.  I would like to remind all who support her of her own words, forcefully given, words that can be used now regarding the current president: “I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic.  We should stand up and say we are Americans, and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration.”  Of course if Hillary becomes president, many who criticize her will be called misogynists rather than patriots.]

Look, both sides make ridiculous assertions when defending their own, and Republicans have had, and yes, do have, their own irrational and obstinate pols and supporters, but some people on the left are just so hysterically biased and unreasonable that it is impossible for them to be objective and fair.  They hurt their credibility when they yell, “Racism!” at every turn, and it only makes those who legitimately condemn the president and others, more angry and reactive, and the political discourse even more poisonous than what it should be in a normal democracy.

Has Obama done anything right?  Certainly he has.  And I will list a few things.  Ordering the killing of Osama bin Laden, even though I think any president would have, was a very good thing.  Increasing the drone attacks against terrorist targets another good thing.  Ordering the navy to kill Somali pirates back in 2009 who were holding the captain of a US cargo ship hostage, yep.  The surge in Afghanistan, although it took him way too long to approve and order it, and so, keeping and putting US troops there in danger.  Requesting funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.  And by the way, its development and initial funding was done by Israel itself.

But what else?  Our foreign policy is a mess; the list of mistakes and failures keeps growing.  And domestically, yikes.   Don’t get me started. Either Obama has done the wrong thing, domestic or foreign, not done or given up on doing the right thing, or just plain waited too long to do the right thing, as with ISIS.  And this newest mission is still confused and weak.  Obama’s incompetence is no surprise to me.  He did not have the right experience; in fact he had hardly any experience.  And he had had some very questionable associations to say the least.  Our president was just the “perfect storm” of a candidate in 2008.

As loyal as his base is to him, and the Democratic base is more loyal to their own than the Republican base, Obama has caused major damage to his party much like George W. Bush did to his.  The current president lost his House of Representatives majority because of Obamacare among other things in 2010, when the Republicans claimed victory in a landslide of 63 seats gained.  And he will lose his Senate majority, which could have already been in Republican hands had that party not fielded weak and even laughable candidates in the last couple election cycles.

In this election cycle, Democratic Senate (and other) candidates are doing their best to distance themselves from Obama.  He is so radioactive that a couple days ago, Kentucky’s Democratic Senate candidate even refused to say, when asked repeatedly, if she had voted for him.

And it’s not just Republicans chastising Obama.  Liberal pundits and other Democrats have been disapproving.  David Axelrod, Obama’s former chief campaign strategist said it was a mistake for the president to say that he may not be on the ballot this election cycle, but his policies are.  Sometimes, even the script shown on the teleprompters can be sloppy and not well prepared.

So is it too early to say Obama has had a failed presidency?  Yes, I think it is.  He has a couple more years to turn it around.  The odds are not in his favor considering how I think he just doesn’t care anymore.  I have said it almost from the start, and I will say it again, Obama wants to be president, he just doesn’t want to “do” president.  And I think the chances of him leaving as a successful leader are about as good as Joe Biden going two weeks without saying something insulting, offensive or just downright nonsensical.

Time will tell.

Jews and Jim Crow


After Shabbat services two weeks ago, I nearly quit my job.

That reflex came after a community discussion on Michelle Alexander’s 2011 book “The New Jim Crow,” about racial injustice and inequality in America; I found it impossible to fend off very dark thoughts urging me to expand my mind, my work and my life. What could be more meaningful, more purposeful than devoting oneself to stamping out institutionalized racism?

On the way home, I passed a badly aging apartment building I knew to be inhabited by several black families. I lingered in the doorway, listening to the echo of voices, peering up into shaded windows, paralyzed by curiosity as I imagined interviewing someone in the building. I could knock at a random door, all investigative-reporter-like, and begin writing a series on race in L.A.

After all, these are our neighbors.

That I often leave shul incredibly agitated and deeply inspired, morally challenged and not the least bit perturbed that I have to spend the rest of Shabbat rethinking the purpose of my existence is one of the reasons I love it. As my writing idol Leon Wieseltier, “Is conscience in such fine shape in our time, is compassion so sturdy, that we may all wander off to the satisfactions of private experience? I like that being in shul roils my insides, discomfits the status quo, exhilarates and depresses me all at once. It’s like alcohol, only less toxic.

On that Shabbat, I sat transfixed, as if in a wine-soaked stupor (only I’d drunk nothing but grape juice) as a group of Jews engaged in a public discussion about social justice issues. Many shared their responses to the book itself, but just as many shared stunning personal encounters echoed in its content — experiences with and of the black community, encounters with racism and the impact of racial politics on our country. In the 1980s, Rabbi Brad Artson, now dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University, served as a legislative aid to Democratic politician Willie Brown, who later became San Francisco’s first African-American mayor. Who knew?

For days afterward, I agonized. Not only does this work matter to me, it matters. But what on God’s beautiful, burning Earth can I do? The pain in this world is overwhelming; I’m about to complete a yearlong fellowship of global justice training with American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which exposed me to a whole other realm of misfortune; and moments before this writing, the Israeli government confirmed our worst fears that the three kidnapped Israeli youth — Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel — had been murdered.

But as AJWS’ Ruth Messinger often says, “We cannot resort to the convenience of being overwhelmed.”

When I was in high school, my mother (z”l) worked as a counselor for “severely emotionally disturbed” teenagers at an inner-city school in Overtown, Miami (Google “Overtown, Miami” and the second item that comes up is “Overtown Crime”). Every Friday at the Shabbat dinner table, she’d regale us with that week’s horror story — someone’s infant sibling had drowned in a bathtub from parental neglect; a cocaine-addicted mother beat the child who worked the night shift at a supermarket to help her pay the rent; a girl was raped by her father — it was endless. Every week, we’d hear about parents in prison, gang violence, kids forced into the drug trade just to survive.

Shabbat became a real bummer; a few times, my mother even risked her job to bring her students home with her. She feared that if they went “home,” she’d never see them again, so she offered up our guestroom. That was my mother’s response to feeling overwhelmed. 

Years later, working at another high school, she was assigned a 16-year-old Congolese refugee named Aime Kalangwa, who’d watched as Laurent Nkunda rebels slaughtered both of his parents and nine of his 10 siblings. “As a way of killing my father, they plucked his eyes out, cut out his tongue and cut off his two arms. They then threw him into a drum of oil and boiled him alive,” Kalangwa wrote in an unpublished account called “Struggles in Life.” It’s sickly absurd suggesting what they did to his mother was worse. On the front of the packet containing his memoir — which my mother gave to me because she thought it should be turned into a movie — it says, “Don’t cry when reading this story.”

Walking home from a morning coffee the other day, I was contemplating a world on fire. Violence in Congo, Syria and Iraq, Israel and Palestine, the Global South, the streets of American cities. What is an adequate response to deep and systemic suffering? Is any response truly adequate? Where does it begin?

It’s hard enough, I thought, being consistently kind and compassionate  — our best selves — with those closest to us, with those whom we love. The seeds of dignity, empathy and civility are sown at home. It is hardest to do your best with the people who know your worst.

In college, after watching a documentary about the privatization of water in impoverished South American communities, I turned to a classmate in the film lab who was not nearly as unnerved by it as I was. “How are you OK?” I pleaded. “How do you not throw your arms up in despair amidst all the brokenness that needs mending?!”

My classmate’s name was Ruth. And for as long as I live, I shall never forget what she taught me. “I can’t make the whole world good,” she said. “But I can live everyday as an emanation of goodness.”

Remembering that advice may have saved my job.

U.S. Patent Office cancels trademarks of NFL’s Redskins


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the federal trademarks for the National Football League's Washington Redskins because they disparage Native Americans, the agency said on Wednesday.

The decision by a Patent Office administrative tribunal followed years of criticism of the Washington club by Native Americans and others who say the name is a slur.

Five Native Americans had petitioned to overturn six Redskins trademarks, and evidence showed that “Redskins” was disparaging of Native Americans, the Patent Office said in a statement.

“Thus, the federal registrations for the 'Redskins' trademarks involved in this proceeding must be canceled,” the agency said.

The decision can be reviewed by a federal court. The ruling does not mean that the trademarks can no longer be used by the NFL club, only that they are no longer registered, the statement said.

A Redskins spokesman could not be reached immediately for comment.

Team owner Daniel Snyder has defied calls for 14 years to change the club's name and logo, which dates from the 1930s. The franchise has come under increasing fire over the name.

Half the U.S. Senate, all of them Democrats, last month urged the NFL to endorse a name change for the franchise. Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat whose name led the letter, called the ruling a “landmark decision.”

“I hope that all the business decisions at the team will be made with the understanding that this is no longer a business case and we will get off of this slur of a name that we need to change,” she said on the Senate floor.

President Barack Obama also has weighed in, saying before the ruling that if he owned the team he would consider changing the name.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in January that most football fans and Americans supported the Redskins keeping their name.

The named petitioner in the case, Blackhorse v. Pro Football Inc, is Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo psychiatric social worker.

In a USA Today profile this year, Blackhorse said she had considered what she might say to Snyder if she ever met him.

“I’d ask him, ‘Would you dare call me a redskin, right here, to my face?’” she said. “And I suspect that, no, he would not do that.”

The plaintiffs had largely made the same argument as those who filed a trademark suit in 1992. The Patent Office canceled the trademarks in 1999, but the decision was overturned on appeal.

A judge ruled in that case that the petitioners had waited too long to assert their rights after the first Redskins' trademark was issued in 1967.

Sterling: Upholding the Los Angeles cultural status quo


Late in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction, Marsellus Wallace—a criminal boss played by Ving Rhames—banishes prizefighter Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) from Southern California. “You lost all your L.A. privileges,” Rhames says with lethal menace, and Willis quickly leaves the Southland on his motorcycle.

If only it were that easy to kick Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling out of L.A. But, alas, Tarantino’s film is pure fantasy. There is simply no person, institution, or network in today’s Los Angeles with the clout to force powerful Angelenos to repent their sins—much less drive them out of town.

The racism heard on the leaked tape may have been news around the country, but Sterling’s discrimination against renters in his apartment buildings, and his anti-black, anti-Mexican, and misogynist views, were well-known facts of Los Angeles life for 30 years. Over those decades, no one in L.A.  sought to dislodge Sterling from his role as owner of a major sports franchise. And now, with his bigotry a national news event, Sterling has become an outrageous example of the inability of L.A. to police itself, and its elite.

Even after the public release of an audio tape of Sterling demanding his girlfriend stop associating with black people, no Southern Californian was able to pull a Marsellus Wallace and kick him out of L.A. The consequences he has faced so far – and will face in the future – are all coming from the outside: from the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (who suspended him for life on Tuesday), from Sterling’s fellow team owners (who could force him to sell), and from corporations that sponsor pro basketball (and have disassociated themselves from the Clippers).

Thank goodness for those punishments, because who here would have had the juice to force him to sell the team? Prominent business leaders? L.A.’s rich corporate types are more engaged nationally and globally than locally, and they don’t have the public profile, or leverage, to threaten Sterling or his team. City political leaders? L.A.’s charter keeps mayors and city council members from having too much power. Ironically, the mayor of Sacramento, former pro basketball star Kevin Johnson, has had more of a role than L.A.’s own mayor since Johnson was retained by the players’ union for advice on dealing with Sterling. The town’s newspapers or TV stations? They’re mostly shrinking in ambition and staff.  

In L.A., accountability almost always requires outside intervention. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca had mismanaged the jail for years, but only resigned earlier this year after the federal government began investigating. When Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was sabotaging the team, it took the commissioner of baseball, in Milwaukee, to force the team’s sale. In the past generation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s special education program, and the Los Angeles Police Department all have required forms of federal receivership.

Outside intervention, of course, is no panacea. But the alternative is unchecked defiance, the best current example being Brian D’Arcy, head of the biggest union of L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) employees. For months, he has refused demands from city leaders, the courts, and the media that he turn over financial documents on two nonprofits that received $40 million from ratepayers. Even as he stonewalled, D’Arcy served on the Los Angeles 2020 Commission, a group of distinguished L.A. citizens, as they issued a report complaining about a lack of accountability in city government. Did I mention that defiance is a close cousin of shamelessness?

In Sterling’s case, it’s unclear whether other powerful Angelenos would have moved against him—even if they could have. For one thing, he’s got the kind of hallowed, homegrown personal narrative—poor kid from the Eastside (Boyle Heights) who becomes a Westside titan (real estate) —that buys plenty of second chances here. And Sterling bought social status by becoming a major player in the phony, philanthropic Beverly Hills hotel chicken dinners that always make rich people look charitable and sometimes raise money for a good cause.

By handing out money to many different people and organizations across all lines of geography, cause, and ethnicity, Sterling incentivized much of Los Angeles to ignore his racism. Among those who looked the other way for years was the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, which was about to give him a second lifetime achievement award when the recent news broke. It didn’t hurt Sterling that he advertised his charitable exploits in the L.A. Times, a paper that has portrayed him more as creepy uncle than as unrepentant racist.

This particular moment has exposed the underbelly of Southern California’s open culture. Weak institutions and weak leadership free people here to do as they please and be who they are. But when someone powerful does real damage to Los Angeles and its reputation, there’s no one able and willing to protect us.

Sterling’s conversation with his girlfriend—who, as a 30-year-old multiracial gold digger, was the perfect companion for the wealthy 80-year-old Los Angeles racist—was offensive and nonsensical.  But Sterling did say one thing that hit close to home. When his girlfriend asked why he wouldn’t stand against racism in the world, Sterling said on the tape: “We don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong. We live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.”

For all the criticism of Sterling that you hear from Angelenos now, he is decidedly the product of Los Angeles culture. He thrived here. Now, he defines us.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zocalo Public Square.

 

Jewish groups slam racist rant attributed to Donald Sterling


Jewish groups condemned the racist remarks attributed to Donald Sterling, the Jewish owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, called the remarks “reprehensible.”

“If the National Basketball Association’s investigation reveals that Mr. Sterling in fact made these racist and intolerant statements, we expect and anticipate a swift and forceful response,” Foxman said in a statement. “We applaud those within and outside the NBA who have already spoken out on this issue. It is reassuring and affirming to know that such flagrant racism is so widely regarded as out of bounds.”

TMZ published a 10-minute recording of the racist rant on its website late Friday, saying the recording was a conversation between Sterling and his model girlfriend, V. Stiviano.

Sterling, the son of Jewish immigrant parents, allegedly tells his girlfriend, who is black and Mexican, not to be seen in public with black people or to post photographs of herself with black people on Instagram. He also tells her not to bring black people, including Magic Johnson, to his team’s basketball games.

Johnson and others in the NBA community, notably Michael Jordan, the former Chicago Bulls superstar and now an owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, have slammed Sterling’s remarks, as did President Obama in Malaysia over the weekend.

On Sunday, an extended audio from the conversation was released by the website Deadspin in which the man identified as Sterling is heard explaining that his views reflect the way the world works. As evidence, he says that black Jews in Israel “are just treated like dogs.”

His girlfriend is heard countering that as a Jew, Sterling should know better than to advocate discrimination, and she cites the Holocaust as an example of where racism can lead.

Amanda Susskind, ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director, called on Sterling to reject the statements attributed to him.

“In Los Angeles, the most diverse major city in the country, we take as a point of pride that our leaders — in business, in government and in the community — embrace and accept this diversity without bias or bigotry,” Susskind said in a statement. “Both are suggested in the shocking language attributed to Mr. Sterling. We hope he disavows both the language and the sentiment behind it.”

The American Jewish Committee condemned the remarks and called on the NBA to take appropriate action against Sterling.

“Donald Sterling’s callous remarks regarding African Americans are a painful reminder that, 60 years after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, and 50 years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, there is still work to be done,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “And that someone so deeply involved in the NBA, which exemplifies the racial tapestry of our country, would think this way is all the more striking.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who also is Jewish, called the racist remarks attributed to Sterling “truly offensive and disturbing.” He said in a statement Sunday that the league will move “extraordinarily quickly” in its investigation.

The Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which had been scheduled to honor Sterling with a lifetime achievement award on Sunday, said via Twitter that it had rescinded the award.

Sterling, a lawyer and real estate owner born Donald Tokowitz, bought the Clippers in 1981. He currently is the longest-tenured owner in the NBA.

The fall of Donald Tokowitz


[UPDATE, May 2] My conversation with Donald Sterling


My head is spinning from watching the horror show of Donald Sterling’s racist rants and his subsequent lifetime banishment from basketball. In case you’ve been on Mars the past week, Sterling is the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers who was recorded spewing racist bile to his mistress, telling her, among other things, not to bring “black people” to his games.

The sin of cheating on a spouse is bad enough, but in today’s world, the sin of racism looks even worse. It’s not simply that bigotry of any kind has become so frowned upon. It’s also the new media environment we live in.

Put it this way: If you want to be a racist today, you’d better keep it to yourself. We can’t legislate decency, but we can shame bigotry like never before. In a digital world, where millions of sound bites can spread in seconds and never go away, unleash your bigoted impulses and watch your legacy go down in shame.

When Donald Sterling’s great-great-grandchildren Google his name a hundred years from now, the first thing they’ll see is that their famous ancestor was famous for being a racist. They’ll learn that he was sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent to minority tenants, and that the bigoted rants revealed in April 2014 were only the latest in a long pattern of racist behavior.

They may also learn that he grew up in Boyle Heights and saw his father wake up every morning at 2 a.m. to buy produce and resell it to local restaurants. And that he picked up his father’s strong work ethic to work his way through law school, and when the big firms did not hire Jews at the time, started a thriving practice to help everyday people get legal assistance.

They may learn all that, but in the end, it is the bigotry and racism that will stick. 

His descendants may also learn that Donald changed his last name from Tokowitz to Sterling to give himself an aura of success. The name Tokowitz, apparently, sounded too Jewish.

I guess you can say that his name change was good for the Jews. 

Can you imagine the anti-Semitism that would have been rekindled today had it been billionaire Donald Tokowitz spewing these racist rants? Not that people can’t do quick research and figure out that Sterling is Jewish, but in our Twitter-dominated world, “Tokowitz the racist” is exponentially worse for the Jews than “Sterling the racist.”

How’s that for delicious irony? By selfishly worrying about his own reputation, he ended up protecting — somewhat — his own people’s reputation.

There is something pathetic about a wealthy old man caught in the vise of bigotry. Of all that I’ve read about this saga, maybe the saddest thing is that Sterling doesn’t have any tenants in his Beverly Hills office building. Apparently, that’s so he can ride up in his gold-plated elevator alone. God forbid he should come into contact with ordinary people. 

It makes you wonder: Was there anyone he respected in his inner circle who could confront him? Or did they all laugh at his jokes, funny or not, as cronies are wont to do?

Beyond the issue of Sterling’s personal failings, there is also the hypocrisy of those who have enabled his behavior — groups such as the National Basketball Association, which for 30 years failed repeatedly, until now, to punish his misconduct.

Another group that comes to mind is the NAACP, which gave Sterling a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 — the same year he paid out a record $2.75 million to settle allegations of discrimination against minority tenants — and recently announced that it planned to give him another award at its 100th anniversary gala this month.

 Of course, after this latest eruption of bigotry, complete with smoking gun, the NAACP’s leaders have seen the light and announced they will not honor Sterling this month and are taking steps “to rescind the previous award they bestowed on him.”

Sorry — nice try, but too little, too late.

It’s no secret around town that organizations desperate for funds have been honoring Sterling and his wealthy connections for years while closing their eyes to his racist indiscretions. All these groups were playing with fire, but the NAACP, for obvious reasons, should have been extra careful not to associate with someone with such a shady record in race relations.

If the NAACP is looking for someone to honor at its gala event, I have an idea: Honor the Jews who helped start the NAACP a hundred years ago — names like Julius Rosenthal, Henry Malkewitz, Lillian Wald, and Rabbis Stephen S. Wise and Emil Hirsch.

Those Jews never felt a need to make their names sound less Jewish. They didn’t have to — they had nothing to hide.

The memory of these heroes may not raise as much money or sell as many tables as a billionaire slumlord does, but their great-great-grandchildren will have no shame when they Google their names. 

Exploiting Israel’s Negev Bedouin


While many believe that a successful peace process will end demonization of Israel based on incendiary terms such as “apartheid” and “racism,” and in accompanying boycott campaigns, the evidence suggests that this hatred goes far deeper. Indeed, the organizations that lead these campaigns are not focused on the post-1967 “occupation”, but rather target all of 1948 Israel, from Kiryat Shemona, along the border with Lebanon (and Hezbollah), to Eilat at the southern tip. For these groups, any form of Jewish self-determination and sovereignty equality, is, in their language, a form of racism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. And Israeli Jews who live in the Negev or Tel Aviv are “settlers”.

For example, a number of political non-governmental organizations (NGOs) recently launched campaigns that exploit the complex issues surrounding land claims on behalf of Israel's Negev Bedouin population. The Negev, with the city of Beersheva, Ben Gurion University, and Soroka hospital, constitutes over half of the country's territory. As the Israeli Bedouin population grew significantly in recent decades, partly due to the practice of polygamy and very high birthrates, illegal building, without planning or environmental considerations, has expanded widely. As is true for any other competent government, the Israeli leadership has sought to change course, in form of assisting the Bedouin by creating new towns, with schools, clinics and other necessary facilities.

[Read a response to Gerald M. Steinberg]

In response, anti-Israel NGOs that cynically use the cover of human rights hit the road with global tours, including in the United States and Europe, attacking the plan, repeating labels such as “ethnic cleansing”, “racial discrimination,” and “human rights violations”. In slick publications, videos, and presentations before the UN and European parliamentary groups, NGOs have falsely referred to the Negev Bedouin as “Palestinian victims”, and Israeli Jewish residents in the Negev as “settlers”. The campaign erases 4000 years of Jewish history in the Negev (from the arrival of Abraham in Beersheva), thereby delegitimizing Israeli sovereignty. Noted Israeli columnist Ben-Dror Yemini reviewed a slick propaganda video produced by Rabbis for Human Rights, portraying Israel “as the cruel anti-Semitic ruler, expelling and disinheriting and destroying and robbing…” (Funding for this video and for other campaigns of radical NGOs that exploit Bedouin issue is provided by groups such as the US-based New Israel Fund.)

Similarly, a radical organization calling itself “Jewish Voices for Peace”, which supports BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) has suddenly discovered the Bedouin Negev issue. Little is know about JVP’s membership or its sources of funding (over $1 million dollars annually), but its primary agenda is to promote anti-Israel and anti-Zionist propaganda, in order to “drive a wedge” over support for Israel in the American Jewish community. In particular, JVP targeted participants in the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial conference, taking place in San Diego.

With little knowledge of the details, “progressive Jews” are deemed as likely to accept and sympathize with the campaign to “help the Negev Bedouin” stand up to the “powerful Israeli state which seeks to deprive them of their land”.

In contrast, American Jews are unlikely to hear the Bedouins themselves, unfiltered by officials of political NGOs, because their leaders lack the resources for these global tours and press campaigns. For example, Abed Tarabin, leader of one of central clans in the Negev, recently noted that “The opposition to the plan comes from belligerent politicians, making noise for their own purposes. It doesn’t come from real Bedouin leaders who are concerned with their people. There is plenty of room in the Negev for everybody, and it is good that the government is working to improve things and is investing money in us”.

These views rarely make it into many journalists writing about Israel simply repeat the unsupported NGO allegations, and exclude the Bedouins themselves. In a major article based on NGO claims, and accompanied by emotionally moving photos, the New York Times correspondent greatly exaggerated the number of individuals that would be affected by the Israeli plan. She also quoted radicals who again referred to “insidious racism, ethnic cleansing or even apartheid”, as well as “a land grab that ignores their culture and traditions.”

The prevalence of such campaigns regarding the Negev, within Israel’s 1948 “Green Line”, suggests that a peace agreement with the Palestinians will not end the demonization and boycotts. For Israelis and American Jews who support a two-state solution, the need to oppose such misleading and hate-based campaigns should be a major priority.


Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg is the president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute and recipient of the 2013 Menachem Begin Prize.

Jews in Mandela’s South Africa


The year was 1994; South Africa was hanging on a thread. The first free general election was about to take place on April 27.

The world was waiting with baited breath to see whether civil war would erupt and blood would be shed.

 I had just moved from Cape Town to live in the most dangerous city in the world, Johannesburg. I could not have been more excited about my upcoming wedding four weeks from that date.  

When I was 8 years old, I remember sitting next to my grandfather and asking “Why did you not take the boat from Vilna to America?” “My darling,” he said, “do you think Jews could go anywhere they wanted?”

 There was a small quota in 1927 allowing Jews to emigrate from Lithuania to South Africa. So three generations ago, my grandparents fled oppression and anti-Semitism to go to a country on a different continent where some had rights, but many did not.

In hindsight, when I read about the events leading up to the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, including the violence occurring on a daily basis in the townships and the tribal fighting, I am amazed at not only the turmoil and uncertainty in which we lived, but also how we continued with “life as normal”

I lived three minutes away from Alexandria Township, and hearing gunshots and seeing smoke from our balcony was a common occurrence.   However, since media censorship was still in place, we did not hear or see or read about most of the turmoil and violence. It was the outside world that truly had more insight into what was going on in South Africa. I remember some of our relatives and friends fleeing the country before our wedding, being convinced civil war would break out at any minute.

Instead of fearing the new political situation and its possible implications for me and the Jewish community in South Africa, I was filled with a sense of hopeful anticipation and a sense of purpose that all young people and specifically women could play in this new democratic country.

I foresaw the many opportunities in this  “New South Africa” At 25, I had started a market research company and would go into township and tribal areas to conduct in-depth interviews and group discussions with my teams of interviewers. Since no research had previously been conducted in any of these areas, and all groups had been kept separate from each other under the Apartheid system, we had very little understanding of the cultures, attitudes, needs and wants of communities.

I was fascinated by the differences in each tribe’s culture and realized that understanding a person’s culture is the foundation of respect in a new society.  When I lectured to research students on how to go about conducting qualitative and quantitative research it was many times them who taught me the appropriate terms of respect and endearment when addressing people of various ages.

From being a feared and regarded by many white South Africa as “persona non grata” whose name was mentioned in whispers, ” Nelson Mandela became our savior and leader. He assured each and every person that no matter their religious affiliations, tribal roots or the color of their skin, they had a home in the new South Africa — the “rainbow nation”. 

Despite these assurances, the many opportunities that presented themselves in the new South Africa and the adoration and respect for Nelson Mandela, I feared for the future of the Jewish Community in the New South Africa. I read about and witnessed the horrific, escalating daily crimes and the close alliances that the New African National Congress (ANC) government had formed with then Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro and Muammar Gadhafi.

For generations, Jews in South Africa had been asking, “Is there a place for us, do we have a future?”  Before Mandela was elected President, we personally, and as a community, continuously debated this topic.

Now, with Mandela’s passing, we continue to ask the same question. While the world and the political environment have changed over the past 19 years, the debate for Jews in South Africa remains the same.

Mandela was a hero because he understood each group’s and each community’s insecurities and fears.  When one suffers, it is easy to become insulated and myopic. Mandela experienced suffering, dedicated his life to the freedom struggle, having spent 27 years in prison, sacrificing his family life and enduring harsh conditions. Yet somehow, he was able not only to forgive and reach out to those who had tormented him, but also to show empathize with them at the very things they feared.

Each time I heard Mandela speak, dressed in his famous “ African shirts,” I think of a man of immense power, but with amazing humility, modesty and compassion. To South African Jews, and to people throughout the world, he has a value we will never be able to quantify.  He represents the very best of human kindness, one that always tried to build a better South Africa for all South Africans.

Today as a Jew, what concerns me most is that there is no one in the South African Government who can maintain that same level of empathy and closeness for the South African Jewish community or who understands the Jewish community’s affiliations with Israel as Mandela did. He understood that Israel is not just a country, but also a part of each Jewish person.

South Africa’s Jewish community, in particular, will be forever grateful for the influence Mandela had on their lives not just as President, but also for the respect he showed for every religion.


Leora Raikin is a South African fiber artist, author, teacher and speaker on African tribal arts and customs through African Folklore Embroidery as well as The Jews of Southern Africa- From Vilna, to Cape Town to Los Angeles.  www.aflembroidery.com She has lectured at  Skirball Cultural Museum and was guest artist at Camp Ramah. In South Africa she founded Strategic Property Research and was awarded Business Achiever of the year for her work in post-apartheid research. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband Gary and son Joshua.

Is the Civil Rights movement over?


Ask any schoolchild when the civil rights movement took place and she will likely tell you it was in the 1960s. Recent events have made us wonder what we can do to re-create a similar sense of urgency about the civil rights at issue today. Although the challenges we are facing today differ greatly from those of yesteryear, how do we get people to think about civil rights in the 21st century? There are so many areas where we still have work to do — challenges facing the LGBT communities, immigrant rights, human trafficking — not to mention ingrained and ongoing racism and other bigotry. And there are new ways in which we are challenged by new technology — the anonymity of hate on the Internet, how much more ubiquitous (and permanent) cyberbullying is than real-time bullying ever was. 

As we look back, we are struck by the successes of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Certainly we didn’t have better race relations or communications systems in place 50 years ago. Yet enormous strides have been made — the Civil Rights Acts, case law against discrimination and, more recently, hate-crimes legislation — even when public opinion was not there. What were the keys to the success of the movement then, and how can we regain that type of momentum now? One factor was a sense that there was a coalition among diverse groups all working toward the same goal. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” There is no escaping the fact that civil rights groups and community organizations must work together to combat lingering racial and social injustice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles has reopened the civil rights division. The Anti-Defamation League, celebrating its centennial this year, has launched a campaign,o “Imagine a World Without Hate.” The Urban League of Greater Los Angeles works with schools and nonprofit organizations to reduce dropout rates in area schools. While these and more are certainly good examples of this happening, there are too many cases in which polarization — of our communities, our politics and our media — has led us away from rather than toward each other. 

The Zimmerman case gave rise to discussions about racial disparity and stereotyping of African-American males. According to a Pew Research Center poll on the racial divide over the George Zimmerman verdict, 86 percent of African-Americans that were surveyed felt dissatisfied with the verdict of the Zimmerman trial, while only 30 percent of whites reported feeling dissatisfied with the verdict. Many commentators remarked on race relations during and after the Zimmerman case, but sadly some turned inward to fight the battle instead of building bridges.

Some groups and self-appointed leaders organizing in the wake of the tragedy employed rhetoric that demonized and marginalized other communities rather than uniting and mobilizing them. The New Black Panther Party offered a $10,000 bounty for the capture of Zimmerman and called for the mobilization of 10,000 black men to capture him. When one of its leaders, Mikhail Muhammad, was asked if he was inciting violence, he simply said, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Their Florida representative called Zimmerman “a wicked white beast” and claimed “his father is a Jew; he’s a no-good Jew.”

In Lancaster, there was a community prayer and call to action. One of the speakers, Stan Muhammad, spoke as a community leader and city commissioner in calling for the creation of the Antelope Valley Youth Ambassadors for Peace. In his speech, he made a reference to certain rap artists being “faggots” who “have sold their soul to the devil [and are] being paid by the Synagogue of Satan to keep our people deaf, dumb and blind.” Granted, he apologized when people reacted immediately and with outrage, but only for his use of the term “faggots.” In trying to explain, he clarified that he was referring to rap artists who “have made a deal with the Synagogue of Satan and the deal is this: You put out what I tell you to put out because I do not want your people conscious.” The “Synagogue of Satan” is a reference to a Nation of Islam conspiracy theory that assumes that the world is being manipulated and corrupted by Satanic powers led by Jewish elites.

It is not only members of the African-American community who have jumped to bigoted conclusions in the very context of addressing civil rights and other matters affecting the community. Pamela Geller, co-founder of American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, has utilized Islamophobic vitriol in the name of coming to Israel’s defense. Her 2012 campaign of bus advertisements included one that read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” More recently, Geller’s group promoted an 18-point platform about stopping Muslim immigration into countries that do not have Muslim majorities.

Perhaps our 24-hour news cycle and the multitude of information options have contributed to a system that rewards brevity, not mindfulness. Sound bites prevail over dialogue. In some cases, self-interest trumps altruism.

But if we are successful in couching our 21st century challenges in a comparable framework of the civil rights movement, we must take our time, choose our words, and join forces to foster inclusiveness and mutual respect among communities of all kinds. 

Our communities are facing difficult, tense and painful experiences, and we are not wrong for feeling prey to ongoing racism and bigotry. However, in order to productively and effectively respond to these persistent civil rights issues, as leaders we must denounce radical hate-mongering rhetoric and reach across racial and religious lines to unite in the fight against bigotry. The Urban League must stand up to anti-Semitism in radicalized African-American leaders just as the Anti-Defamation League stands up to Islamophobia in Jewish leaders. We must not forget the lessons learned from the 20th century civil rights movement as we forge our way in these complicated, polarized, high-speed times.


Amanda Susskind is the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Southwest Region. Nolan Rollins is the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Los Angeles.