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July 14, 2016

Speaking Truth, Facing Bias and Promoting Empathy

Magnetic-poetry-(modified-for-policing-and-bias)It has been a rough summer as the topic of guns, violence, police and bias scream across the news headlines and our smart phones.

Still reeling from the June 12 massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, a few short weeks later we watched on video the back-to-back shooting deaths by police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN.  Just a day later, as cities across the country engaged in protests over these deaths, we witnessed the horrifying sniper attack of white police officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Loren Ahrens, and the wounding of seven others.

For most of the country, school is out but that doesn’t stop parents and families from wanting to answer questions and find meaning in these deaths while they discuss the tragedies with their children. Nor does it prevent teachers from reflecting on how they will address it with students when school resumes.

What can we learn from these events and what can we teach children about them?

The words of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, in the wake of the Dallas shooting, are insightful and instructive:

“We need this to mean something to this community and this country. It’s a senseless act of hate but if it can mean that it’s an opportunity to open that dialogue so that white people think about what a Black family goes through as they teach their children a different set of rules than a white family will teach their children. So that non first responder families think about what a first responder family goes through wondering if their loved one is going to come home.”

What this means is not only do we all have to try harder to listen to and hear the perspective of one another–perspectives that may be difficult and uncomfortable to take in—we also need to engage in a dialogue where we can concurrently speak hard truths and listen with compassion and empathy. It is also critical that we listen to and accept the strong feelings people may have about these and other incidents—whether it is anger, fear, shame, sadness and disappointment, but also the triumphant feelings of making a difference.

As parents, family members and teachers who are responsible for educating the next generation of citizens and leaders, how can we translate the hard truths of racism, violence, inequity and a need for empathy into how we talk to young people about these issues?

First, it is critical that we promote understanding of identity, culture, differences and develop skills in how to respect those differences. These are concepts and skills that need to be taught in a methodical way, especially if there isn’t racial diversity in the schools and communities in which kids live.  But even if there is diversity, these skills and concepts have to be taught, nurtured and modeled on a regular basis.

Second, from an early age, we need to talk with children about prejudice and bias.  As they get older, we can teach young people about discrimination, implicit bias, injustice and the ways in which people have overcome oppression. We need to also talk with them about the intersection of racism, violence, inequity and the criminal justice system. At a time where 69% of Americans perceive race relations as “mostly bad,” open and honest dialogue across differences must be a priority, both for young people and adults.

Finally, as Judge Jenkins asserted, we need to “respect one another, show compassion for one another and see things through each other’s perspective.” Racism exists and especially for Black and Latino men, bias can have dangerous and even deadly consequences when interacting with the criminal justice system. Police officers have a demanding job that provides an opportunity to positively impact communities but also requires them to face danger on a regular basis. Promoting empathy means helping students understand different perspectives and the lens with which others see the world.

When we do this, we help young people tap into their humanity, build their empathy skills and feel more connected to one another other.



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August 1, 2014

U.S. Anti-Israel Protests Continue In Week 3 Of Gaza War

Protests against Israel’s operations in Gaza continued this week, with at least two dozen protests taking place since Sunday and several dozen more scheduled over the weekend. A total of 206 demonstrations have taken place since Israel’s military campaign began on July 8.

See below for a roundup of what happened in select cities this week:

Sunday, July 27 – Dallas, TX: A group of protesters marched through downtown Dallas holding signs that compared Israel to Nazi Germany and others that said, “Stop the Israeli genocide” and “Dear USA, Your 9/11 is our 24/7. Sincerely, Palestine.”

Dallas, TX

Dallas, TX

Monday, July 28 – Seattle, WA: A demonstration in Seattle featured around 50 protesters who marched near Westlake Center holding signs with slogans such as “Gaza Holocaust Must Stop” and “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza” (written next to a picture of Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a swastika armband).

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA


Tuesday, July 29 – New York, NY: Norman Finkelstein, a longtime critic of Israeli policy, organized a so-called “direct action” outside the Israeli Consulate in New York. Finkelstein had announced plans for an action involving civil disobenience the day before on social media, claiming that the action would go forward only if 100 people committed to participating and getting arrested. Hours later, Finkelstein decided to go ahead with the action, even though he did not succeed in getting 100 people to signup.

Norman Finkelstein July 29, 2014

New York, NY


Finkelstein (the second individual in the picture above) led a group of about two dozen anti-Israel protesters who laid down on the crosswalk near the Consulate holding signs that read “End genocide” and “Stop genocide now.” The group blocked traffic from proceeding on Second Avenue and they were subsequently arrested by NYPD.

Wednesday, July 30 – Baltimore, MD: A demonstration and march sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University Students for Justice in Palestine chapter included signs that said “Gaza = Warsaw Ghetto,” “Resistance is justified when people are occupied,” and “Stop arming the murderers of humanity.” Norman Finkelstein, who had been arrested a day earlier in New York City, spoke at the rally.

Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, MD

Thursday, July 31 – West Bloomfield, MI: A demonstration was held outside the Metro Detroit Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan during an annual meeting for the Michigan chapter of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). At the demonstration, protesters gathered with signs that read “One Holocaust doesn’t justify another” and “Israeli Occupation = Palestinian GENOCIDE: Stop US aid for Israel’s Heinous Crimes.”

One speaker at the demonstration exclaimed that “We must demand that the U.S. government…stop supporting a fascist Zionist regime!” and another claimed that the people of Gaza are living in an “open-air prison.”

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July 25, 2014

Anti-Semitism On Display: Two Weeks of U.S. Anti-Israel Protests

In the 15 days of protests against Israel’s response to the latest round of rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza, there have been a total of 134 anti-Israel demonstrations held in cities throughout the U.S. Many of these demonstrations featured anti-Semitism with many comparisons made between the State of Israel and Nazi Germany. In addition, some of the rallies have featured content in support of Hamas and overall Palestinian “resistance.”



1. California

The state with the most anti-Israel demonstrations was California where there were 19 different protests held in cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Chico, and Santa Cruz. Quite a few of these demonstrations featured signs that compared the State of Israel to Nazi Germany. In San Francisco an Israeli flag was burned. In Los Angeles, a demonstrator held a sign that read “That Jew-Jew Lame shit I ain’t with it Israel you better quit it Gaza-za #FreePalestine.”





2. New York

Ten anti-Israel demonstrations have taken place in New York State in cities such as New York, Syracuse, and Buffalo. At these demonstrations, some participants held up anti-Semitic signs and certain speakers called for the destruction of the State of Israel and defended the terrorist group Hamas.



3. Ohio and Washington

In Ohio and Washington State, there were nine separate anti-Israel demonstrations held in cities including Cleveland, Toledo, Seattle and Olympia. In both states, protesters held anti-Semitic signs that made comparisons between the State of Israel and Nazi Germany and alleged Israeli control over the American government. “Die-ins” were also held in both states.




4. Texas

Eight anti-Israel demonstrations took place in cities such as San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Protesters held signs that read “They’re both the same” (written next to pictures of Adolf Hitler, an equals sign, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), “We’re seeing Israel’s incremental genocide in the Gaza ghetto,” and “End the Palestine Holocaust.”



5. Florida and Washington, D.C.

Seven separate anti-Israel demonstrations took place across Florida and in Washington, D.C. Protesters attended these demonstrations holding signs that read “Adolf Netanyahu Hitler,” “One Holocaust doesn’t justify another!,” and “Gaza is the real Holocaust.” A sign that read, “Blaming Hamas 4 firing rockets @ Israel is like blaming a woman 4 hitting her rapist” appeared in Miami.





6. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts

There were six anti-Israel protests held in both Pennsylvania and Massachusetts in cities such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Boston. At these demonstrations, participants were seen with signs that read “Not even the Holocaust gives you the right to do this!” and “Do you think that Israel is a victim? Zionism = Nazism.” The sign “Blaming Hamas for firing rockets is like Blaming a woman who punches her RAPIST” also appeared at a rally in Philadelphia.




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