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April 14, 2016 Off

Jackie Robinson Set the Stage

By Ken­neth Jacobson

April 15 is the 69th anniver­sary of the entry of Jackie Robin­son into the major leagues. To com­mem­o­rate that his­toric event and that his­toric fig­ure, PBS is run­ning a new two-part doc­u­men­tary  look­ing at how this grand­son of slaves rose from hum­ble ori­gins to inte­grate Major League Baseball.

In some ways, the story of Robin­son and the inte­gra­tion of base­ball is a lit­tle hard for us to under­stand in 2016. Soci­ety in gen­eral has come a long way: the civil rights rev­o­lu­tion, the elec­tion of an African-American pres­i­dent, and the lead­ing role that African-Americans play in our major Amer­i­can sports. And base­ball no longer occu­pies a unique place as the national pas­time that it held in the 1940s.

Jackie_Robinson,_Brooklyn_Dodgers,_1954

Still, in a year where major sto­ries include num­bers of cases of unarmed African-Americans killed by police, where the right to vote cre­ated by the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act is under attack, where the school to prison pipeline is in the news, the Jackie Robin­son story has much to teach us.

In 1947, base­ball was king in Amer­ica. The fact that base­ball had never allowed an African-American to par­tic­i­pate in the major leagues was a blot on America’s rep­u­ta­tion, but only one of many that char­ac­ter­ized the coun­try before the civil rights era.

Robin­son was truly the har­bin­ger of change in America.

His break­through on April 15, 1947, which was rec­og­nized as a huge step for­ward. It took place seven years before the land­mark seg­re­ga­tion case Brown vs. Board of Edu­ca­tion and 17 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It started a process, which took years to ripen and which still is not over, of right­ing the great wrong of Amer­i­can history.

The great les­son of the Robin­son expe­ri­ence is that while laws have the great­est impact in chang­ing soci­ety, cul­ture can set the stage and cre­ate a cli­mate for the accep­tance of new, more inclu­sive laws. We’ve seen that in our time with the legal­iza­tion of gay mar­riage, which was pre­ceded by a num­ber of years of greater cul­tural accep­tance of les­bian and gay peo­ple through tele­vi­sion and the internet.

Back then, the emer­gence of Robin­son, the first African-American major lea­guer,  who han­dled  hos­tile fel­low major lea­guers and crowds with such grace and strength, to be fol­lowed over the next few years of other suc­cess­ful black major lea­guers, helped to cre­ate a sense that African-Americans deserved to be treated like other Amer­i­cans in our demo­c­ra­tic soci­ety. It was not a rev­o­lu­tion – it took years for the law to change – but it set the stage for the revolution.

Cul­ture mat­ters. How we teach our chil­dren, how the media por­tray var­i­ous minori­ties, how our reli­gious, busi­ness and polit­i­cal lead­ers speak about “the other” have a cumu­la­tive affect that cul­mi­nates in a more equal society.

Nobody bet­ter rep­re­sents this idea than Jackie Robinson.

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March 22, 2016 3

Intended or Not, SJP’s Actions Have Consequences for LGBTQ People

By Seth M. Marnin, Vice Pres­i­dent for Civil Rights

Recent homo­pho­bic and anti-Semitic inci­dents at Brown Uni­ver­sity came on the heels of the announce­ment that Janet Mock, trans­gen­der author and founder of #Girl­s­LikeUs, a social media project that empow­ers trans women, had can­celled her sched­uled speak­ing engage­ment there. Mock’s talk, Redefin­ing Real­ness, was spon­sored by Moral Voices, the Brown Cen­ter for Stu­dents of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Cen­ter, LGBTQ Cen­ter, Sex­ual Assault Peer Edu­ca­tors, Swearer Cen­ter for Pub­lic Ser­vice, Office of the Chap­lains, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Inter­cul­tural Stu­dent Engage­ment, and Brown/RISD Hillel.

React­ing to the fact that Hil­lel was one of the co-sponsors of pro­gram, the Brown Uni­ver­sity chap­ter of Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) launched a change.org peti­tion urg­ing Ms. Mock to reject Hillel’s invi­ta­tion to speak, say­ing that she should accept “Brown stu­dents’ spon­sor­ship instead of Hillel’s.”  Although they were only able to gain 159 sup­port­ers (of the nearly 9,000 stu­dents who attend Brown), SJP’s divi­sive efforts led to Ms. Mock can­celling her talk.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

While some may be quick to crit­i­cize Ms. Mock’s deci­sion, con­dem­na­tion should instead be lev­eled against SJP and their efforts to splin­ter a com­mu­nity and use Ms. Mock as a pawn. In their effort to link Hillel’s Moral Voices’ cam­paign — a largely domes­tic ini­tia­tive high­light­ing vio­lence against LGBT+ indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties — to vio­lence in the Mid­dle East, SJP forced a trans­gen­der woman of color to choose between silenc­ing her­self or allow­ing her­self to be exploited for their unre­lated cru­sade.  She should never have been put in that position.

The homo­pho­bic and anti-Semitic graf­fiti that appeared on Brown’s cam­pus just days later occurred in an envi­ron­ment that SJP helped cre­ate. Their claim to be sur­prised is unper­sua­sive.   More­over, the graf­fiti is only one vis­i­ble sign of the con­se­quences of SJP’s actions. While SJP’s efforts to alien­ate Jew­ish stu­dents are well doc­u­mented, there are other impli­ca­tions too.

There are far too few vis­i­ble trans­gen­der role mod­els and lead­ers. Efforts that have the effect of quash­ing those scarce voices have far-reaching reper­cus­sions.  For exam­ple, stud­ies have shown that the sui­cide attempt rate among trans­gen­der men and women exceeds 41%, greatly sur­pass­ing the 4.6% of the over­all U.S. pop­u­la­tion who report a sui­cide attempt at some point in their lives. The ele­vated rates of sui­cide attempts are con­nected with sur­vivors’ expe­ri­ences of fam­ily rejec­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion and vio­lence at school and work. The absence of trans­gen­der voices in main­stream dis­course also plays a role. There few role mod­els for young trans­gen­der peo­ple, and fam­i­lies, co-workers, and friends of trans­gen­der peo­ple have lim­ited oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear from trans­gen­der lead­ers.  Such an expe­ri­ence would bet­ter equip them to be allies in the future. Unfor­tu­nately, SJP’s actions fore­closed that pos­si­bil­ity for the Brown Uni­ver­sity campus.

The impor­tance of pro­vid­ing plat­form for trans­gen­der voices is under­scored by the fact that, accord­ing to the National Coali­tion of Anti-Violence Pro­grams’ most recent report, vio­lence against trans­gen­der women and par­tic­u­larly trans­gen­der women of color remains at an alarm­ingly high rate. At present, only 17 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have hate crime laws that explic­itly cover gen­der iden­tity. Crit­i­cal efforts to address vio­lence against LGBTQ peo­ple, includ­ing advo­cacy for inclu­sive hate crime laws like the 50 States Against Hate cam­paign, are under­mined by orga­ni­za­tions that engage in activism that results in silenc­ing trans­gen­der voices. That too is what SJP did.

SJP encour­aged a speaker – wholly unre­lated to Israel — to reject an invi­ta­tion from a broad coali­tion of stu­dent orga­ni­za­tions solely because one of those orga­ni­za­tions is Jew­ish. Intended or not, SJP harmed the LGBTQ com­mu­nity at Brown and beyond.  It’s well beyond time to reject these divi­sive tactics.

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March 17, 2016 3

Reconciliation Cannot Mean Turning a Blind Eye to Farrakhan’s Anti-Semitism

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Farrakhan - Iran

As the new CEO of ADL, I have recom­mit­ted ADL to our his­toric civil rights agenda. In my short tenure as head of ADL, I have brought my lead­er­ship team to the cra­dle of the civil rights move­ment in Atlanta, Selma and Mont­gomery to recom­mit to our immense task of achiev­ing equal jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. We have vig­or­ously lob­bied Con­gress to pass leg­is­la­tion to undo the dam­age to the Vot­ing Rights Act caused by the Supreme Court rul­ing in 2013; we have chan­neled our out­rage after the tragedy in Charleston to launch a coalition-based cam­paign of #50StatesAgainstHate to ensure that all states have effec­tive hate crime laws to pro­tect African-Americans and other mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties; and we have taken up issues of edu­ca­tion equity and the school to prison pipeline. And we are com­mit­ting to address­ing the injus­tice of mass incar­cer­a­tion, inci­dents of police bru­tal­ity and crim­i­nal jus­tice reform.

In the name of work­ing to ensure equal­ity, how­ever, we are unwill­ing to give a pass to anti-Semitism and hate as exhib­ited by Louis Far­rakhan and the Nation of Islam.

Indeed, one of the prin­ci­ples that under­lie efforts to pro­vide rights for all is the need to stand against big­otry wher­ever it sur­faces. That was why I was frus­trated to read Rus­sell Sim­mons’ blog on Louis Far­rakhan – “The Nation of Islam and the Anti-Defamation League– Now Is the Time to Mend Fences.”

Civil rights and social jus­tice are core pri­or­i­ties for ADL under my lead­er­ship. But let me be clear: When it comes to the big­otry of Louis Far­rakhan, there is not one iota sep­a­rat­ing me from my predecessor.

It always was true and remains so today that expos­ing and con­demn­ing Farrakhan’s hatred does not mean that he is beyond redemp­tion. All of us should admit that we can do bet­ter.  But the onus for “mend­ing fences” is not on the tar­gets of his hate, but on Min­is­ter Far­rakhan himself.

Min­is­ter Far­rakhan, like oth­ers who engage in hate, has the oppor­tu­nity to change. He could repu­di­ate his long his­tory of anti-Semitic state­ments, speeches and pub­li­ca­tions.  He could pub­licly com­mit never again to engage in such big­otry.  When this hap­pens, it could be a his­toric moment and an oppor­tu­nity to turn a new page.

But he has not done so. In fact, in recent years, he has actu­ally dou­bled down on his anti-Semitic rants, accus­ing Jews of respon­si­bil­ity for 9–11, which he describes as “a false flag oper­a­tion that was designed to…so frighten, alarm, and anger the Amer­i­can peo­ple that they could direct that anger against the Mus­lim world.” He has spun con­spir­acy the­o­ries of nefar­i­ous Jew­ish con­trol of the African-American com­mu­nity, of America’s polit­i­cal sys­tem and media, and just about any other con­spir­acy the­ory that anti-Semites peddle.

We know that many in the African-American com­mu­nity have pos­i­tive feel­ings toward Min­is­ter Far­rakhan. We know that he has done much for his community.

I appre­ci­ate that Rus­sell Sim­mons wants to see rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. I know Rus­sell is authen­tic in his desire to bring the par­ties together.  And I am sure that many oth­ers would like to see a sim­i­lar rap­proche­ment. But it’s unfor­tu­nate that Rus­sell dis­misses the long his­tory of hatred that has char­ac­ter­ized Min­is­ter Farrakhan’s remarks. But Farrakhan’s big­otry can­not so eas­ily be brushed aside.

There is long his­tory of big­otry that ADL has con­sis­tently spo­ken out against.  And this is not ancient his­tory. As recently as last week, Far­rakhan reit­er­ated his obses­sion with Jews and our “wicked­ness.” And in prior pub­lic state­ments, we have heard his racism, his hate­ful state­ments directed at the LGBT com­mu­nity, and some­times his use of vio­lent rhetoric.

And the prob­lem is com­pounded when good peo­ple like Rus­sell Sim­mons will­fully ignore this real­ity or opt to min­i­mize such hos­til­ity, and then end up blam­ing ADL for the alien­ation from Far­rakhan. There undoubt­edly are pos­i­tive aspects to Min­is­ter Farrakhan’s mes­sage to mem­bers of the African-American com­mu­nity, but no one should get a pass for hatred.

To set the record straight, there is no truth to the accu­sa­tion that ADL calls “every African Amer­i­can leader an anti-Semite.” This is an out­ra­geous charge on its face, con­sid­er­ing that ADL has worked on behalf of civil rights in this coun­try for decades. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. was an ally and my pre­de­ces­sor marched along­side him in Selma and stood with him at the White House. ADL and African Amer­i­can lead­ers have worked hand in hand on many issues for generations.

While it is true that some pub­lic fig­ures from the African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity have made big­oted state­ments that we have crit­i­cized, we have done the same when lead­ers from other com­mu­ni­ties also expressed anti-Semitism or other forms of prej­u­dice, and even crit­i­cized big­otry from mem­bers of our own community.

But to say, how­ever, that we accused Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young and other Black lead­ers of being anti-Semites is flat out wrong and deeply hurt­ful. Yet this is a trope that Min­is­ter Far­rakhan has used to wash him­self clean of the very real charge levied against him for his hate. It is dis­ap­point­ing to see that Rus­sell has restated these false claims.

ADL will con­tinue to rein­vig­o­rate its work on the civil rights agenda because our mis­sion and val­ues com­pel us to. This work is a moral imper­a­tive in ful­fill­ment of our mis­sion to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. In pur­suit of that mis­sion, we will con­tinue to expose and vig­or­ously con­demn big­otry wher­ever it appears, includ­ing the anti-Semitism and big­otry of Louis Farrakhan.

But all of us can change.  When Min­is­ter Far­rakhan is ready to make the same moral choice – to treat all of God’s chil­dren with the same dig­nity and respect – and pub­licly speak out against anti-Semitism or big­otry toward oth­ers whom he has demeaned, we will be ready to engage with him.

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