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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.

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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 2, 2016 4

Iran Trains Young Children for Warfare Against US and Israel

As the media focuses on all that is allegedly “new “ in Iran, with new elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives and new busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties,  young chil­dren in the Islamic Repub­lic are being trained in decades-old Iran­ian pro­pa­ganda, vio­lence and hate, with the goal of “con­quer­ing Tel Aviv”.

Iranian children

As part of last month’s Fajr Decade cel­e­bra­tions (the anniver­sary of Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion), Iran­ian offi­cials in the city of Lamard orga­nized the “Sixth National Children’s Memo­r­ial”, an event which trains chil­dren for war­fare against the US and Israel. Accord­ing to reports, as many as 1,200 chil­dren par­tic­i­pated in the event, with some dressed in mil­i­tary apparel. The event included forms of tar­get prac­tice with weapons, run­ning through obsta­cle courses and learn­ing about “con­quer­ing of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem” as “holy val­ues.” One photo from the event shows a young boy hold­ing an Israeli flag which he is prepar­ing to set alight in a nearby bonfire.

Iran (which infa­mously sent in child sol­diers dur­ing the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s) is a sig­na­tory to an inter­na­tional pro­to­col of the Con­ven­tion of the Rights of Chil­dren which says:  “States Par­ties shall refrain from recruit­ing any per­son who has not attained the age of fif­teen years into their armed forces…” and “States Par­ties shall take all fea­si­ble mea­sures to ensure that per­sons who have not attained the age of fif­teen years do not take a direct part in hos­til­i­ties. “   While such train­ings may not con­sti­tute explicit recruit­ment or involve­ment in hos­til­i­ties, with ses­sions such as these, Iran’s power bro­kers are edu­cat­ing, moti­vat­ing and train­ing for hos­til­i­ties against Israel in the future.

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