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August 25, 2015 0

When Hateful Speech Leads to Hate Crimes: Taking Bigotry Out of the Immigration Debate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

When police arrived at the scene in Boston, they found a Latino man shak­ing on the ground, his face appar­ently soaked in urine, with a bro­ken nose.  His arms and chest had been beaten.  One of the two broth­ers arrested and charged with the hate crime report­edly told police, “Don­ald Trump was right—all these ille­gals need to be deported.”

The vic­tim, a home­less man, was appar­ently sleep­ing out­side of a sub­way sta­tion in Dorch­ester when the per­pe­tra­tors attacked.  His only offense was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The broth­ers attacked him for who he was—simply because he was Latino.

In recent weeks anti-immigrant—and by exten­sion anti-Latino—rhetoric has reached a fever pitch.  Immi­grants have been smeared as “killers” and “rapists.”  They have been accused of bring­ing drugs and crime.  A radio talk show host in Iowa has called for enslave­ment of undoc­u­mented immi­grants if they do not leave within 60 days.  There have been calls to repeal the 14th Amendment’s guar­an­tee of cit­i­zen­ship to peo­ple born in the United States, with alle­ga­tions that peo­ple come here to have so-called “anchor babies.”  And the terms “ille­gal aliens” and “ille­gals”— which many main­stream news sources wisely rejected years ago because they dehu­man­ize and stig­ma­tize people—have resurged.

The words used on the cam­paign trail, on the floors of Con­gress, in the news, and in all our liv­ing rooms have con­se­quences.  They directly impact our abil­ity to sus­tain a soci­ety that ensures dig­nity and equal­ity for all.  Big­oted rhetoric and words laced with prej­u­dice are build­ing blocks for the pyra­mid of hate.

Biased behav­iors build on one another, becom­ing ever more threat­en­ing and dan­ger­ous towards the top.  At the base is bias, which includes stereo­typ­ing and insen­si­tive remarks.  It sets the foun­da­tion for a sec­ond, more com­plex and more dam­ag­ing layer: indi­vid­ual acts of prej­u­dice, includ­ing bul­ly­ing, slurs, and dehu­man­iza­tion.  Next is dis­crim­i­na­tion, which in turn sup­ports bias-motivated vio­lence, includ­ing hate crimes like the tragic one in Boston. And in the most extreme cases if left unchecked, the top of the pyra­mid of hate is genocide.

Just like a pyra­mid, the lower lev­els sup­port the upper lev­els.  Bias, prej­u­dice and discrimination—particularly touted by those with a loud mega­phone and cheer­ing crowd—all con­tribute to an atmos­phere that enables hate crimes and other hate-fueled vio­lence.  The most recent hate crime in Boston is just one of too many.  In fact, there is a hate crime roughly every 90 min­utes in the United States today.  That is why last week ADL announced a new ini­tia­tive, #50StatesAgainstHate, to strengthen hate crimes laws around the coun­try and safe­guard com­mu­ni­ties vul­ner­a­ble to hate-fueled attacks. We are work­ing with a broad coali­tion of part­ners to get the ball rolling.

Laws alone, how­ever, can­not cure the dis­ease of hate.  To do that, we need to change the con­ver­sa­tion.  We would not sug­gest that any one person’s words caused this tragedy – the per­pe­tra­tors did that; but the rhetor­i­cal excesses by so many over the past few weeks give rise to a cli­mate in which prej­u­dice, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and hate-fueled vio­lence can take root.

Rea­son­able peo­ple can dif­fer about how we should fix our bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem, but stereo­types, slurs, smears and insults have no place in the debate.

Immi­grants have been a fre­quent tar­get of hate, and unfor­tu­nately, prej­u­dice and vio­lence are not new.  Many of our ances­tors faced sim­i­lar prej­u­dice when they came to the United States. In the 1800s, the attacks were against Irish and Ger­man immi­grants. Next was a wave of anti-Chinese sen­ti­ment cul­mi­nat­ing with the Chi­nese Exclu­sion Act in 1882. Then the hatred turned on the Jews, high­lighted by the lynch­ing of Leo Frank in 1915.  Then came big­otry against Japan­ese immi­grants and peo­ple of Japan­ese dis­sent, which led to the shame­ful intern­ment of more than 110,000 peo­ple dur­ing World War II.  Today, anti-immigrant big­otry largely focuses on Lati­nos.  The tar­gets have changed, but the mes­sages of hate remain largely the same.  It is long past time for that to end.

ADL, as a 501©(3), does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for elec­tive office,but we have a sim­ple mes­sage for all pol­i­cy­mak­ers and can­di­dates:  There is no place for hate in the immi­gra­tion debate.  There is noth­ing patri­otic or admirable about hatred and hate-fueled vio­lence.  The only accept­able response to hate crimes is unequiv­o­cal, strong con­dem­na­tion.  And the same is true for the bias, prej­u­dice, and big­oted speech that have recently per­me­ated the immi­gra­tion conversation.

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August 5, 2015 0

On the 50th Anniversary of Voting Rights Act, Congress Must Legislate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Fifty years ago, as Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son signed into law the Vot­ing Rights Act, he said, “Today is a tri­umph for free­dom as huge as any vic­tory that has ever been won on any battlefield.”

The anal­ogy was apt. Peo­ple had indeed given their blood – and in some cases even their lives – fight­ing for the right to vote.

It was also accu­rate. The Vot­ing Rights Act (VRA) secured and safe­guarded the right to vote for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, mak­ing it among the most impor­tant mile­stones of the civil rights move­ment and per­haps its most effec­tive leg­isla­tive achievement.

For decades before the enact­ment of the VRA, states had used laws – includ­ing lit­er­acy tests, grand­fa­ther clauses, and poll taxes­ – to pre­vent African Amer­i­cans from vot­ing. Although, when chal­lenged, the courts almost always struck down the laws as uncon­sti­tu­tional, it some­times took years for the cases to make their way through the court sys­tem.  By the time the courts struck down one law, leg­is­la­tors had passed another dis­crim­i­na­tory law to take its place.

The VRA changed the equa­tion.  By not only out­law­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in vot­ing around the coun­try, but also requir­ing the his­tor­i­cally worst offend­ers – both states and local juris­dic­tions – to “pre­clear” their pro­posed changes to vot­ing prac­tices with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment before going into place, the VRA opened the door for those pre­vi­ously silenced by dis­crim­i­na­tion to make their voices heard.

And the VRA’s suc­cess was clear almost imme­di­ately. After 1965, African Amer­i­can voter reg­is­tra­tion rates sky­rock­eted. The num­ber of African Amer­i­cans elected to pub­lic office increased five­fold within five years of the VRA’s pas­sage. By the early 2000s, there were more than 9,000 African Amer­i­can elected offi­cials in the United States – includ­ing the first African Amer­i­can president—and most were from areas required to pre­clear their laws with the fed­eral government.

In 2013, how­ever, in a case called Shelby County v. Holder, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down a crit­i­cal part of the VRA, essen­tially gut­ting the heart of the leg­is­la­tion. Although the court affirmed that the idea of pre­clear­ance was con­sti­tu­tional, it struck down the for­mula used to deter­mine which states and local­i­ties would have to pre­clear their laws, effec­tively end­ing the prac­tice of preclearance.

In a pow­er­ful dis­sent, Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg wrote, “Throw­ing out pre­clear­ance when it has worked and is con­tin­u­ing to work to stop dis­crim­i­na­tory changes is like throw­ing away an umbrella in a rain­storm because you’re not get­ting wet.”

As Jus­tice Gins­burg and the other dis­senters had fore­seen, the storms rolled in imme­di­ately. Within hours of the Supreme Court’s deci­sion, Texas, North Car­olina, and other states put into effect dis­crim­i­na­tory vot­ing laws that had been pre­vi­ously blocked by fed­eral courts review­ing the poli­cies as part of the pre­clear­ance procedure.

Texas, for exam­ple, imme­di­ately revived a redis­trict­ing plan that a fed­eral court had refused to pre­clear before Shelby County, find­ing “more evi­dence of dis­crim­i­na­tory intent than we have space or need to address here,” and put into effect a voter ID law that another fed­eral court had blocked, con­clud­ing that “sim­ply put, many His­pan­ics and African Amer­i­cans who voted in the last elec­tions will, because of the bur­dens imposed by SB 14, likely be unable to vote.”

Since then, states and local­i­ties around the county have passed dozens of laws that threaten to dis­en­fran­chise hun­dreds of thou­sands of vot­ers, dis­pro­por­tion­ately impact­ing com­mu­ni­ties of color, the elderly, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, stu­dents, and poor people.

When the Supreme Court struck down the for­mula used to deter­mine which states would have to pre­clear their laws, it expressly left open the door for Con­gress to cre­ate a new formula.

Recently, Con­gress has answered that call. A new bill has been intro­duced in both the House and the Sen­ate – the Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act – which would revive the cru­cial vot­ing rights pro­tec­tions of the VRA by cre­at­ing a new for­mula for pre­clear­ance, putting in place addi­tional safe­guards for vot­ing, and once more help­ing to ensure that all Amer­i­cans can have their say in our democracy.

In 2006, the last year in which Con­gress voted on reau­tho­riza­tion of the VRA, sup­port for con­tin­u­ing the law’s crit­i­cal safe­guards was bipar­ti­san and nearly unan­i­mous. The vote was 390 to 33 in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives (includ­ing over 150 cur­rent Rep­re­sen­ta­tives) and 98 to 0 in the Sen­ate (includ­ing over 30 cur­rent Senators).

That same bipar­ti­san sup­port for the VRA is more impor­tant today than ever before. In this moment when our coun­try seems polar­ized on so many issues and ten­sions are uncom­fort­ably high, an endorse­ment from both sides of the aisle for the VRA would be a pow­er­ful sign of demo­c­ra­tic renewal and national civil­ity at a time when such behav­iors are in short supply.

As we gear up for the 2016 elec­tion – the first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since the Supreme Court crip­pled the VRA’s pro­tec­tions – we need, as Pres­i­dent John­son said, a new tri­umph for free­dom to match any won on a battlefield.

On the 50th anniver­sary of the Vot­ing Rights Act, it is time to leg­is­late, not just commemorate.

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July 30, 2015 0

Mezuzah Is Fair Housing Decision’s Overlooked Beneficiary

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25th favor­able fair hous­ing deci­sion was a big win for the civil rights of all Amer­i­cans, includ­ing Jew­ish con­do­minium own­ers and renters who are pro­hib­ited from plac­ing Mezuzahs on their outer door posts.

A mezuzah is a small, unob­tru­sive object – typ­i­cally less than six inches long and an inch wide – which for mil­len­nia has been placed on the outer door­posts of Jew­ish homes in ful­fill­ment of reli­gious oblig­a­tions.  It is not a dec­o­ra­tive choice for Jews, or a choice of any kind.  Rather, an obser­vant Jew­ish per­son can­not buy, rent or reside in a res­i­dence where place­ment of a mezuzah on the outer door­post is prohibited.

Mezuzah-RS Many con­do­mini­ums, devel­op­ments and rental com­mu­ni­ties are sub­ject to gen­er­ally applic­a­ble aes­thetic or other restric­tions which pro­hibit the dis­play of all reli­gious or sec­u­lar sym­bols on outer door­posts and doors, includ­ing the mezuzah.  In the vast major­ity of these sit­u­a­tions, home­owner asso­ci­a­tions or land­lords accom­mo­date Jew­ish res­i­dents by allow­ing them to post their mezuzahs with­out issue.

How­ever, in the minor­ity of cases where asso­ci­a­tions or land­lords refuse to allow the mezuzah, the Court’s deci­sion is a valu­able legal tool.  In Texas Dept. of Hous­ing v. The Inclu­sive Com­mu­ni­ties Project, Inc., the Court rec­og­nized “dis­parate impact” the­ory under the fed­eral Fair Hous­ing Act.  As a result, gen­er­ally applic­a­ble hous­ing rules or prac­tices that have the effect of unin­ten­tion­ally dis­crim­i­nat­ing on the basis of race, color, reli­gion, sex, famil­ial sta­tus or national ori­gin, includ­ing restric­tions bar­ring dis­play of the mezuzah, vio­late the Act.

In light of the Court’s rul­ing, ADL has issued a new pub­li­ca­tion enti­tled, “Reli­gious Accom­mo­da­tion for the Mezuzah: Your Rights Under Fair Hous­ing Laws,” which in addi­tion to dis­cussing accom­mo­da­tions under fed­eral law cov­ers the four state laws (Con­necti­cut, Florida, Illi­nois and Texas) that specif­i­cally pro­hibit rules bar­ring dis­plays of the mezuzah and other reli­gious sym­bols in outer door areas.

Pro­vid­ing reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions for the mezuzah is a prin­ci­pled and wor­thy prac­tice.   Now that the Court has ruled in favor of dis­parate impact under the Fair Hous­ing Act, home­owner asso­ci­a­tions and land­lords should be on notice that pro­vid­ing such accom­mo­da­tions is not only the right thing to do, but legally required in most instances.

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