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January 19, 2016 4

MLK & ADL: Because the Work is Not Yet Done

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

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Today, we mark the 87th birth­day of Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. It also has been just over 180 days since I took the helm of the Anti-Defamation League(ADL), an orga­ni­za­tion founded more than 100 years ago in pur­suit of a dream that MLK labored to achieve his entire life: to fight big­otry and cre­ate a more just soci­ety. MLK and ADL shared a path that today seems per­haps even more inter­twined than ever before.

ADL was cre­ated in Octo­ber 1913, forged in the cru­cible of anti-Semitism. Our founders sought to rid the world of that age-old scourge even as they equally endeav­ored to drive an agenda of civil rights and social jus­tice. MLK was born 16 years later, and he matured into a civil rights leader in the 1950s, ded­i­cat­ing him­self to expos­ing the bru­tal­ity of the Jim Crow South and dis­man­tling its dis­crim­i­na­tory sys­tem of insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism and oppression.

ADL sup­ported MLK and the move­ment in its ear­li­est days. In 1954, we filed an ami­cus brief in the land­mark Brown v Board of Edu­ca­tion deci­sion. Ben Epstein, one of my pre­de­ces­sors who led ADL in the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury, directed the orga­ni­za­tion to work hand in hand with African Amer­i­can lead­ers. MLK and Epstein stood together in Selma as Epstein recruited his entire exec­u­tive team to march across the Edmund Pet­tis Bridge for that sto­ried march in Feb­ru­ary 1965. And later,​ MLK and Epstein again stood side by side in the Rose Gar­den with Pres­i­dent John­son and Attor­ney Gen­eral Kennedy, cel­e­brat­ing the gains of the move­ment and cement­ing the Black-Jewish alliance.

In recent years, how­ever, many have lamented of the fray­ing of the alliance. Diver­gent inter­ests in the ensu­ing decades have alien­ated many in our com­mu­ni­ties. Some sim­ply have for­got­ten the his­tory. Oth­ers have cho­sen to sub­or­di­nate it to other more press­ing con­cerns. But the thing about his­tory is that it always remains, per­haps just under the sur­face, but it still endures.

In my role as CEO of ADL, I have sought to re-energize that his­tory. Just last month, I led my first “lead­er­ship retreat,” bring­ing together my exec­u­tive team of pro­fes­sion­als and lay lead­ers. Yet, rather than hun­ker down near our head­quar­ters in Man­hat­tan, I opted to visit the Amer­i­can South so we could exam­ine the legacy of the alliance that defined the Amer­i­can Civil Rights move­ment and reflect on our part in it.

We started in Atlanta at Ebenezer Bap­tist Church, not only where MLK preached and the lan­guage of the move­ment took shape, but the site where we pre­viewed #50StatesAgainst Hate last August in the wake of the Charleston​ mas­sacre. #50States is a new nation­wide effort to ensure com­pre­hen­sive hate crimes laws are passed in all 50 states so that all peo­ple of all back­grounds have the pro­tec­tion that they deserve.

We then trav­eled to Mont­gomery and lis­tened to Bryan Steven­son whose land­mark work at the Equal Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive on crim­i­nal jus­tice issues and sen­tenc­ing reform strikes me as some of the most impor­tant con­tem­po­rary work in this field. We spent time in Selma, lit­er­ally walk­ing the same route across the Edmund Pet­tis Bridge that MLK, Epstein, and oth­ers walked 50 years ear­lier. Although we faced none of the hatred and vio­lence that con­fronted those marchers, we were struck by the his­tory of the moment.

Yet the retreat was not intended sim­ply to cel­e­brate our past. It was designed to remind ​us of the respon­si­bil­ity of the inher­i­tance bequeathed to us by Dr. King and Epstein. It was about climb­ing that hill of his­tory so that we might root our­selves in our legacy but also to use its van­tage point to look out at the hori­zon at the great chal­lenges that remain before us today. For surely, the work is not done.

As we con­sider the ris­ing inequal­ity in our coun­try between the rich and the very poor, we know the work is not done. As we con­sider the con­trast between our grad­u­a­tion rates and incar­cer­a­tion rates, we know the work is not done. As we con­sider the inabil­ity of our laws and the fail­ure of our cul­ture to pro­tect all vul­ner­a­ble groups from dis­crim­i­na­tion, we know the work is not done. As we observe the coars­en­ing of the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion and the rise of extrem­ism, we know our work is not done.

To para­phrase MLK, change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitabil­ity, but comes through con­tin­u­ous strug­gle. On this MLK Day, we recom­mit to the strug­gle — to straight­en­ing our backs and press­ing for­ward with the hard work of stop­ping the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple, stem­ming the tide of big­otry in all forms, and secur­ing jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all.

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January 11, 2016 3

Five Things We Hope to Hear in the President’s State of the Union Speech

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Pres­i­dent Obama has said that his final State of the Union address on Tues­day, Jan. 12 will be framed around “the big things” he sees as being pri­or­i­ties in the years to come, rather than tak­ing a policy-centric approach to the speech.  He has said that there is more work that needs to be done, and we agree.

In the run-up to the president’s address, we at the Anti-Defamation League asked mem­bers of our staff and some of our offices across the coun­try for some insights on which issues deserve pri­or­ity treat­ment dur­ing the president’s address. Our com­pleted list fol­lows.  ADL’s pri­or­i­ties for the pres­i­dent include: 1) Fight­ing prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion 2) wel­com­ing asy­lum seek­ers and refugees while pro­tect­ing national secu­rity 3) safe­guard­ing reli­gious free­dom 4) Rein­forc­ing a com­mit­ment to Iran sanc­tions, and 5) Sup­port­ing a strength­ened Israel-U.S. relationship.

One caveat:  I should note that while we have num­bered these, they are each sep­a­rate and dis­tinct issues and not ordered by impor­tance. We believe each of these issues deserves pri­or­ity treat­ment by the admin­is­tra­tion at this unique time in Amer­i­can his­tory when we are faced with myr­iad chal­lenges and opportunities.

Let’s hope the pres­i­dent takes on some of these issues as he heads into his final year in office.

Fight­ing Prej­u­dice, Extrem­ism and Dis­crim­i­na­tion  

Last week’s reaf­fir­ma­tion of fed­eral edu­ca­tion anti-discrimination laws,   com­ing at a time of esca­lat­ing prej­u­dice and vio­lence against spe­cific pop­u­la­tions–  refugees, immi­grants, and the Mus­lim com­mu­nity –  was a needed, wel­come reminder for schools.  The Depart­ment of Jus­tice also has used its author­ity under the 2009 Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Pre­ven­tion Act of 2009 very effec­tively, but much more train­ing and out­reach for local police is needed. A 21st cen­tury polic­ing model should include incen­tives for depart­ments   to ensure they are report­ing cred­i­ble hate crime data to the FBI.  Crim­i­nal jus­tice reform, includ­ing leg­is­la­tion now mov­ing through Con­gress, must pro­mote ini­tia­tives to inter­rupt the school to prison pipeline and efforts to build police-community rela­tions.  And the Pres­i­dent should use SOTU to fur­ther explain his new gun vio­lence pre­ven­tion ini­tia­tives, which were announced the same day ADL released a new report doc­u­ment­ing that 2015 was the dead­liest year for domes­tic extrem­ist vio­lence in the past 20 years, with firearms, over­whelm­ingly, the  extrem­ist weapon of choice in 2015 – as in vir­tu­ally every year.  Finally, we hope the Pres­i­dent will press for essen­tial leg­is­la­tion to restore cru­cial vot­ing rights pro­tec­tions elim­i­nated by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder deci­sion.  If Con­gress fails to act, the Novem­ber elec­tions will be the first Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 50 years with­out the robust pro­tec­tions of the Vot­ing Rights Act.

Wel­com­ing Asylum-Seekers and Refugees AND Pro­tect­ing National Security

Some Mem­bers of Con­gress have recently called for block­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s plan to reset­tle up to 10,000 Syr­ian refugees. This is unfor­tu­nate on so many lev­els and incon­sis­tent with our prin­ci­ples as a coun­try whose ori­gins and evo­lu­tion are so bound up with gen­er­a­tions of immi­grants and refugees. The SOTU is an oppor­tu­nity for the Pres­i­dent to urge Con­gress to oppose efforts to halt U.S. refugee reset­tle­ment or to restrict fund­ing for refugees, includ­ing Syr­ian refugees. We hope that the Pres­i­dent will reit­er­ate that Amer­ica can keep its bor­ders safe and, at the same time, wel­come refugees that are flee­ing the bru­tal­ity of ISIS. The Amer­i­can screen­ing process for refugees works – it is the sin­gle most dif­fi­cult way to enter the United States.  Amer­ica must not turn its back on its fun­da­men­tal com­mit­ment to refugee protections.

As thou­sands of men, woman, and chil­dren have fled hor­rific real­i­ties of bru­tal vio­lence and extreme poverty and hunger in El Sal­vador, Guatemala, Hon­duras, and Mex­ico, we also have seri­ous con­cerns about the Administration’s recent cam­paign of home raids to round up and deport these fam­i­lies and adult asylum-seekers. We hope to hear Pres­i­dent Obama speak out and direct the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity to stop these raids and depor­ta­tions.  More­over, chil­dren and fam­i­lies flee­ing for their lives must be pro­tected and have access to legal coun­sel so that they can apply for asy­lum and pro­tec­tion in the United States.

 The Pres­i­dent should also use the SOTU to encour­age Con­gress to recom­mit to advanc­ing com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform that pro­vides for a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for immi­grants, sound bor­der secu­rity, safe­guards against bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and fam­ily reunification.

 Pro­tect­ing Reli­gious Free­dom, LGBT Equal­ity and Repro­duc­tive Rights 

The Pres­i­dent should com­mit to con­tin­u­ing his administration’s sup­port for vig­or­ous reli­gious free­dom advo­cacy on the fed­eral, state and local lev­els, includ­ing oppos­ing orga­nized prayer.  At the same time, the admin­is­tra­tion should con­tinue to demon­strate lead­er­ship on issues of impor­tance to the LGBT com­mu­nity – which have resulted in pos­i­tive, sys­temic changes in pro­tec­tions and equal rights for LGBT peo­ple – by mak­ing it clear that mea­sures couched as sup­port­ing reli­gious free­dom that per­mit busi­nesses to evade anti-discrimination laws and refuse ser­vice to peo­ple based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity are not accept­able.  On the issue of repro­duc­tive rights, we under­stand that all eyes will be on the United States Supreme Court this year as it con­sid­ers restric­tions on Texas women’s clin­ics that we think are unnec­es­sary and uncon­sti­tu­tional, but we hope the Pres­i­dent will under­score his oppo­si­tion to the Texas leg­is­la­tion and other sim­i­lar initiatives.

 

Rein­forc­ing America’s Com­mit­ment to Enforce­ment of Iran Sanc­tions 

Iran con­tin­ues to take actions pro­mot­ing poli­cies and human right vio­la­tions that pro­foundly con­flict with core Amer­i­can val­ues.  As we move closer to “imple­men­ta­tion day,” when the IAEA would cer­tify that Iran has met the require­ments under the nuclear agree­ment to lift inter­na­tional sanc­tions, Iran’s ongo­ing human rights vio­la­tions and its exter­nal aggres­sions must be taken into account when con­sid­er­ing the prospect of nor­mal­ized rela­tions. The United States can­not look away from the insti­tu­tion­al­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion fac­ing eth­nic and reli­gious minori­ties in Iran, includ­ing Baha’is, Chris­tians, Jews, and Sunni Arabs. Their treat­ment ranges from quiet intim­i­da­tion to sys­tem­atic impris­on­ment. LGBT cit­i­zens fare far worse. The Iran­ian regime con­tin­ues its decades-long sup­port of ter­ror­ism against Israel and other coun­tries, and rou­tinely pro­motes fan­tas­ti­cal anti-Israel and anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries, includ­ing mock­ing the Holo­caust and accus­ing Israel of cre­at­ing ISIS. It also has lent finan­cial and mil­i­tary sup­port to the mur­der­ous cam­paign of the Syr­ian government.

The U.S. should be vig­i­lant in using exist­ing sanc­tions tar­get­ing these prac­tices and explore new tools that might be needed to tar­get both human rights vio­la­tions and JCPOA violations.

We hope the Pres­i­dent will send a strong mes­sage Tues­day night to Tehran that there will be con­se­quences to test­ing both the bound­aries of the nuclear agree­ment and con­tin­u­ing its nefar­i­ous behav­ior in the region, and repres­sive poli­cies toward its own people.

 Sup­port­ing a Renewed U.S.-Israel Relationship

Con­gress and the Admin­is­tra­tion rec­og­nize the unique secu­rity threats and chal­lenges fac­ing Israel and the Pres­i­dent should reaf­firm the unshake­able U.S. com­mit­ment to Israel and its secu­rity in the SOTU. Nego­ti­a­tions between the U.S. and Israel are under­way for a new Mem­o­ran­dum of Under­stand­ing (MOU) to ensure Israel is able to main­tain its qual­i­ta­tive mil­i­tary edge over its adver­saries. The cur­rent MOU pro­vides $30 bil­lion in assis­tance to Israel over a 10-year period and is set to expire in 2017.

 As he enters his last full year in office, Pres­i­dent Obama clearly has a full plate.  He also has the oppor­tu­nity to work with Con­gress to insti­tu­tion­al­ize changes, alter­ing the land­scape – domes­ti­cally and inter­na­tion­ally – in ways that will endure well beyond his pres­i­dency.  We and the nation will be pay­ing close attention.

Fol­low us live @ADL_National dur­ing the State of the Union Tues­day night at 9 PM EST for our take on the speech.

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November 20, 2015 0

Today We Remember Transgender Lives Lost and Recommit to Justice

For the past six­teen years on Novem­ber 20th, trans­gen­der peo­ple and allies around the world have come together to mark Trans­gen­der Day of Remem­brance (TDOR). It is a day to honor trans­gen­der peo­ple whose lives trag­i­cally ended in the last year as a result of anti-transgender vio­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion and cel­e­brate the resilience of those who are liv­ing. At memo­r­ial ser­vices around the coun­try, the names of trans­gen­der peo­ple who have been killed in the last year are read.

TDOR-forblog

Much like observ­ing a yahrtzeit (the anniver­sary of a death), it is a time for reflec­tion and intro­spec­tion. This year was an espe­cially vio­lent year, with at least 22 reported mur­ders in the United States since Jan­u­ary, almost dou­ble the num­ber of trans mur­ders in all of 2014. This year has also wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant increase in reported non-lethal anti-trans vio­lence. And the major­ity of this year’s vic­tims were trans­gen­der women of color.

Just this past week, the Con­gres­sional LGBT Equal­ity Cau­cus hosted a forum that brought together advo­cates and com­mu­nity lead­ers to dis­cuss how to address soar­ing lev­els of vio­lence against trans­gen­der peo­ple. Unsur­pris­ingly, issues of racism, poverty, the sys­tem­atic mar­gin­al­iza­tion of trans peo­ple, includ­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in schools, jobs and hous­ing were high­lighted. Advo­cates pri­or­i­tized com­pre­hen­sive nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions and immi­gra­tion and crim­i­nal jus­tice reform as a way to reduce vio­lence against trans people.

Also ear­lier this week, the FBI released the 2014 Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics Act (HCSA) report. While the report doc­u­mented a decrease in the num­ber of reported hate crimes in the United States, crimes tar­get­ing vic­tims on the basis of their gen­der iden­tity tripled. Tripled. And the vio­lence against trans­gen­der peo­ple is not lim­ited to the United States.  Trans Mur­der Mon­i­tor­ing (TMM) project, a pro­gram of Trans­gen­der Europe, sys­tem­at­i­cally mon­i­tors, col­lects and ana­lyzes reports of homi­cides of trans peo­ple world­wide. This year TMM iden­ti­fied 271 trans per­sons to be added to the list to be remembered.

It is impor­tant to take this day to mourn and to honor the lives of those trag­i­cally cut short by hatred and vio­lence. And it is also a day to re-commit to nam­ing the prob­lems work­ing on solutions.

A com­pre­hen­sive fed­eral anti-discrimination law that explic­itly includes gen­der iden­tity is essen­tial. We must ensure that trans­gen­der peo­ple are explic­itly pro­tected from dis­crim­i­na­tion in hous­ing, employ­ment, pub­lic accom­mo­da­tions, edu­ca­tion, fed­eral fund­ing, credit, and jury ser­vice. These legal pro­tec­tions will go far in reduc­ing the num­ber of trans­gen­der peo­ple put in vul­ner­a­ble posi­tions as a result of discrimination.

State hate crime laws must cover hate crimes com­mit­ted on the basis of gen­der iden­tity and expres­sion. An inclu­sive fed­eral hate crime law is not enough. We must redou­ble our efforts to ful­fill the goals of ADL’s 50 States Against Hate cam­paign, par­tic­u­larly enhanced train­ing for law enforce­ment offi­cers on how to iden­tify and respond to hate crimes com­mit­ted against trans peo­ple, bet­ter data col­lec­tion and report­ing by law enforce­ment agen­cies, and increased pub­lic education.

And we must edu­cate young peo­ple and edu­ca­tors about trans­gen­der lives. Our schools must be places where trans­gen­der and gen­der non-conforming youth are able to thrive in an envi­ron­ment that is safe and free from bul­ly­ing and harassment.

So today, we remem­ber and mourn. Tomor­row we con­tinue to fight fiercely for secur­ing jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all.

 

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