discrimination » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’
August 19, 2016 Off

The Living Memory of a Lynching

How an Injus­tice Com­mit­ted Over 100 Years Ago Inspires Our Com­mit­ment to Jus­tice Today

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Leo Frank

This week, we mark a somber anniver­sary of the 101st anniver­sary of the lynch­ing of Leo Frank, a Jew­ish busi­ness­man sent to Geor­gia to man­age his family’s pen­cil fac­tory. This lynch­ing took place at a time of ram­pant anti-Semitism in the South and more broadly in Amer­i­can soci­ety. So it was no sur­prise that when a young Chris­t­ian girl was found mur­dered on the prop­erty, fin­gers were pointed at the out­sider Frank. Despite a lack of evi­dence, and in part due to an envi­ron­ment of incite­ment, Frank was found guilty and sen­tenced to death.

When the gov­er­nor of Geor­gia sub­se­quently com­muted Frank’s sen­tence from cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment to life impris­on­ment, a mob was enraged by this act of mercy for a Jew. At mid­night just over 100 years ago, they tore Frank from his prison cell at the Milledgeville State Pen­i­ten­tiary and hung him on a tree in Mari­etta. Pho­tog­ra­phers cap­tured the grotes­querie for posterity.

The sham trial and bru­tal lynch­ing were an injus­tice and a wound whose pain still sears the Jew­ish com­mu­nity. It was an iso­lated inci­dent for the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, but just one of thou­sands of lynch­ings car­ried out against black Amer­i­cans dur­ing that time, mur­ders that still scar our national psy­che. And it was a moment in time that made clear the need for ADL, which had been founded in 1913.

In this moment, our founders hud­dled in Chicago and laid out a char­ter for a new orga­ni­za­tion they called the Anti-Defamation League. They wrote that it would be ener­gized by a sim­ple mis­sion: “to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure fair treat­ment and jus­tice to all.”

These activists set out to address a mis­sion which even­tu­ally led ADL to address the sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion and per­va­sive prej­u­dice that kept Jews from achiev­ing full equal­ity in the United States. Decades later, this led to the break down of quo­tas that kept Jews out of higher edu­ca­tion and the tear­ing down of cul­tural bar­ri­ers that pre­vented our com­mu­nity from par­tic­i­pat­ing fully in Amer­i­can life. Their pas­sion prompted our work to unmask hate groups and expose big­ots. It moti­vated our com­mit­ment to use edu­ca­tion to tear out hatred at its roots. It dri­ves our work today to under­stand anti-Semitism around the world and to use inno­va­tion to iden­tify and call out hate in all its forms.

Basi­cally, the ADL could not have saved Leo Frank, but we since have endeav­ored to build a world where this kind of lynch­ing never again would take place.

In 2016, the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity cer­tainly has over­come many of the obsta­cles that once held us back. We now pos­sess a degree of polit­i­cal power and social cap­i­tal that was unimag­in­able in the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury. To a large extent, the open anti-Semitism that was woven into the cul­ture of a prior gen­er­a­tion has been pushed out of the realm of polite con­ver­sa­tion. But it has not gone away.

Anti-Semitism remains a potent force and a per­sis­tent prob­lem in our soci­ety, even if it now assumes dif­fer­ent forms. In an age of fil­ter bub­bles and per­sonal news feeds, self-selecting com­mu­ni­ties traf­fic in anti-Semitism and rein­force each other’s con­spir­a­cies. We also encounter this hatred in rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent ways on social mediaon our col­lege cam­puses or even on the wrestling mat in the Olympics.

Indeed, though open anti-Semitism remains largely taboo in the main­stream, we see haters often hid­ing behind a veneer of ‘polit­i­cal cor­rect’ hos­til­ity, direct­ing their ani­mus toward the Jew­ish state rather than Jews as a reli­gious group. But we rec­og­nize the dou­ble stan­dards, overt demo­niza­tion and the denial of the very right of the Jew­ish state to exist, a phe­nom­e­non also known as dele­git­imiza­tion. Despite all the grave injus­tices in the world, these are tac­tics only directed at Israel. They are reminders that what we are fac­ing in a ris­ing tide of anti-Zionism is lit­tle more than a mod­ern ver­sion of the Old­est Hatred.

That is why ADL remains ded­i­cated to our found­ing pur­pose. We never will relent in the fight against anti-Semitism. And that is why we also speak out against all forms of bigotry.

Some seek to por­tray ADL’s one hun­dred year com­mit­ment to fight hatred in all forms as a dilu­tion of our focus. They say that ADL has lost its way. But we are not dis­tracted by arm­chair crit­ics who mis­char­ac­ter­ize our work from the com­fort of the side­lines. We know that our case is strength­ened when we dare greatly, that we are stronger when we find com­mon cause with oth­ers who also face hate.

The pur­suit of part­ners does not mean that we will shy away fight­ing anti-Semitism when­ever it comes from. ADL will con­tinue to call out any­one who ped­dles in prej­u­dice regard­less of their party or sta­tion, whether it’s those seek­ing pub­lic office who resort to car­toon­ish slan­der or those who traf­fic in a mod­ern ver­sion of the age-old blood libel.

And we will con­tinue to stand by other com­mu­ni­ties who suf­fer from hatred and ter­ror. That is ADL stood with the Sikh com­mu­nity after the mur­der of four wor­ship­pers at a Gur­d­wara in the sum­mer of 2012. That is why in the wake of the mas­sacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last year, ADL launched 50 States Against Hate, to ensure that there are ade­quate hate crimes laws in all 50 states to pro­tect mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. That is why we sup­ported the LGBT com­mu­nity after the heinous ter­ror attack per­pe­trated in Orlando ear­lier this sum­mer. And that is why ADL will call outanti-Muslim big­otry and the wor­ry­ing increase in vio­lence tar­get­ing Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties and places of worship.

Our tra­di­tion implores us: “Jus­tice, jus­tice shall you pur­sue.” On this anniver­sary, Leo Frank’s mem­ory impels us to ignore the crit­ics and fight fero­ciously against anti-Semitism and big­otry in all its forms. To para­phrase Dr. King, we recom­mit to the strug­gle because the work is not yet done.

Tags: , , , ,

June 28, 2016 Off

Court Warns Mississippi Legislature on Efforts to Circumvent Marriage Equality

Yes­ter­day, a fed­eral court gave Mississippi’s leg­is­la­ture a stern warn­ing about its efforts to cir­cum­vent the U.S. Supreme Court’s mar­riage equal­ity rul­ing.  The warn­ing was made in the con­text of plain­tiffs to a marriage-equality law­suit ask­ing the U.S. Dis­trict Court for North­ern Mis­sis­sippi to reopen their case in a chal­lenge to HB 1523, the State’s so-called “Pro­tect­ing Free­dom of Con­science from Gov­ern­ment Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act,” which goes into effect on July 1st.

Seal_of_Mississippi_2014.svg

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s Oberge­fell deci­sion, the Dis­trict Court issued a per­ma­nent order mak­ing the marriage-equality rul­ing bind­ing on the “… State of Mis­sis­sippi and all of its agents, offi­cers, employ­ees, and subsidiaries….”

Ear­lier this year, how­ever, the State enacted HB 1523, which broadly allows Mis­sis­sip­pi­ans to deny goods or ser­vices to their fel­low cit­i­zens based on their own “reli­gious beliefs or moral con­vic­tions” that mar­riage is lim­ited to oppo­site sex cou­ples.  One HB 1523 pro­vi­sion empow­ers clerks and their sub­or­di­nates to refuse issuance of mar­riage licenses based on this reli­gious or moral view­point pro­vided that “… mar­riage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.”  But the statute con­tains no pro­tec­tions to safe­guard against imped­i­ments or delays.

The plain­tiffs rightly argue that HB 1523 con­flicts with the Dis­trict Court’s per­ma­nent order, and are insist­ing that it be revised to fully pro­tect their 14th Amend­ment marriage-equality rights.

In grant­ing the plain­tiffs’ request to reopen the case, the Court found that HB 1523 “… may in fact amend Mississippi’s mar­riage licens­ing regime in such a way as to con­flict with Oberge­fell.”  Fur­ther­more, it warned that State leg­is­la­ture that:

[T]he mar­riage license issue will not be adju­di­cated anew every leg­isla­tive ses­sion.  And the judi­ciary will remain vig­i­lant when­ever a named party to an injunc­tion is accused of cir­cum­vent­ing that injunc­tion, directly or indirectly.

The plain­tiffs’ request to the Court is part of a broader chal­lenge to the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of HB 1523, which con­tains other pro­vi­sions favor­ing par­tic­u­lar reli­gious or moral view­points, includ­ing lim­it­ing sex­ual rela­tions to opposite-sex mar­riage and bas­ing gen­der iden­tity strictly on bio­log­i­cal sex.   The law’s pref­er­ences are clearly incon­sis­tent with the First Amendment’s free speech and estab­lish­ment clauses.  Based on this court rul­ing, with its warn­ing empha­siz­ing judi­cial vig­i­lance, there is rea­son to believe that the dis­crim­i­na­tory HB 1523 will even­tu­ally be struck in its entirety.

Tags: , , , ,

June 16, 2016 Off

Charleston Anniversary: We Mourn, We Act

One year ago, on June 17, 2015, a white suprema­cist mur­dered nine parish­ioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.   It’s ter­ri­ble – and unfair – that the quiet space in time we should have had to reflect and prop­erly mourn these mur­ders tar­get­ing African-Americans has been lit­er­ally blown apart by another tragedy – even larger in scale – involv­ing the delib­er­ate tar­get­ing of mem­bers of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity in Orlando this past weekend.

We can and must grieve for the vic­tims of the heart­less white suprema­cist who mur­dered nine peo­ple who had wel­comed him into prayer,

com­mu­nion, and fel­low­ship.   We can and must mourn the vic­tims in Orlando cel­e­brat­ing life dur­ing Pride Month and Latino Night.

And:  we can do more than stand in sol­i­dar­ity and mourn.

On this anniver­sary, after a week­end of bias-motivated may­hem, we should reded­i­cate our­selves to ensur­ing that we, as a nation, are doing all we can to fight hate and extremism.

1)     Law enforce­ment author­i­ties are now inves­ti­gat­ing what role – if any – rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of Islam played in inspir­ing the Orlando mur­derer to act — and that work is clearly jus­ti­fied.  But we must rec­og­nize and pay atten­tion to extrem­ism and hate com­ing from all sources – includ­ing white suprema­cists, like the mur­derer in Charleston.

2)     Charleston and Orlando are fur­ther evi­dence that firearms are more pop­u­lar than ever as the deadly weapons of choice for Amer­i­can extrem­ists. We must end lim­i­ta­tions on fed­eral research on gun vio­lence – and make it more dif­fi­cult to obtain firearms through increased wait­ing peri­ods, safety restric­tions, and lim­i­ta­tions on pur­chases – espe­cially of assault-style weapons.   None of these steps will cer­tainly pre­vent the next gun-toting mass mur­derer – but, as Pres­i­dent Obama said, “to actively do noth­ing is a deci­sion as well.”

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Photo Credit: Cal Sr via Flikr

Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal (AME) Church.
Photo Credit: Cal Sr via Flikr

3)     We need more inclu­sive and exten­sive laws in place to com­bat vio­lence moti­vated by hate and extrem­ism.  On the state level, though 45 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have hate crime laws, a hand­ful of states – includ­ing South Car­olina – do not (the oth­ers are Arkansas, Geor­gia, Indi­ana, and Wyoming).  ADL and a broad coali­tion of three dozen national orga­ni­za­tions have formed #50 States Against Hate to improve the response to all hate crimes, with more effec­tive laws, train­ing, and policies.

And, though hate crime laws are very impor­tant, they are a blunt instru­ment – it’s much bet­ter to pre­vent these crimes in the first place.  Con­gress and the states should com­ple­ment these laws with fund­ing for inclu­sive anti-bias edu­ca­tion, hate crime pre­ven­tion, and bul­ly­ing, cyber­bul­ly­ing, and harass­ment pre­ven­tion train­ing programs.

4)     And finally, let us resolve to more fiercely resist unnec­es­sary and dis­crim­i­na­tory laws, like North Carolina’s HB 2, that deprive indi­vid­u­als of the oppor­tu­nity to live their lives in dig­nity, free from per­se­cu­tion because of their race, reli­gion, national ori­gin, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity, or disability.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,