racism » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘racism’
November 16, 2015 6

Understanding Mizzou and Ourselves

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Recent events at the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri have prompted seri­ous intro­spec­tion. With the deep hurt and rage caused by the death of an unarmed black 18-year old, Michael Brown, serv­ing as the back­drop to per­sis­tent man­i­fes­ta­tions of racism on Missouri’s flag­ship cam­pus, young peo­ple of color and their allies are demand­ing more of our edu­ca­tion and other insti­tu­tional sys­tems. They have sounded a cry for jus­tice that rings far beyond Mizzou.

Stu­dents are not only speak­ing out against overt exam­ples of racism. They are say­ing that the bias they expe­ri­ence is both more sub­tle and more per­va­sive. They are try­ing to tell us that racism sim­mers con­stantly beneath the sur­face of their inter­ac­tions on cam­pus, even when oth­ers do not see it.  Their voices deserve to be heard clearly and taken seri­ously. Their con­cerns require our atten­tion because they reflect deep his­tor­i­cal roots. Their res­o­lu­tion will have impli­ca­tions far beyond Mis­souri and the col­lege campus.

Indeed, the struc­tural inequities in soci­ety high­lighted by stu­dents at Mis­souri exist at all lev­els of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem, includ­ing K-12 and post­sec­ondary schools. Sys­temic injus­tice man­i­fests itself in schools that remain deeply seg­re­gated more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion – not only sep­a­rate but grossly unequal.

This is not an opin­ion but an unfor­tu­nate fact.  We can see this in the huge dis­par­i­ties in school fund­ing and resources; the lack of diver­sity in our teach­ing force as well as the cur­ricu­lum; a dis­ci­pli­nary sys­tem that dis­pro­por­tion­ately pun­ishes stu­dents of color, and a raft of other poli­cies and prac­tices that feed racial and socioe­co­nomic achieve­ment gaps and other neg­a­tive outcomes.

Today, almost three quar­ters of African Amer­i­can stu­dents and eight in ten Latino stu­dents attend majority-minority schools. More­over, roughly four in ten of those stu­dents attend schools that are more than 90 per­cent seg­re­gated.  Schools with the high­est minor­ity pop­u­la­tions are less likely to offer high level sci­ence and math classes.  We see that, on aver­age, their teach­ers are paid sig­nif­i­cantly less annu­ally than schools in the same dis­trict with the fewest minor­ity stu­dents.  Their teach­ers are less likely to be certified.

Achiev­ing diver­sity in edu­ca­tion is crit­i­cal. Diverse schools are cru­cial to the devel­op­ment of a soci­ety that hon­ors inclu­sive­ness. We need plu­ral­is­tic edu­ca­tional envi­ron­ments so that stu­dents can explore a full range of ideas, per­spec­tives and expe­ri­ences and to rethink their own premises and prej­u­dices. Test­ing their own hypothe­ses against those of peo­ple with dif­fer­ing views is the essence of education.

But the solu­tion can­not come merely by cre­at­ing more inclu­sive learn­ing envi­ron­ments in higher edu­ca­tion.  We have to dig deeper, and find ways to acknowl­edge and address the under­ly­ing struc­tural inequal­ity. Struc­tural racism and uncon­scious bias per­me­ate so many aspects of Amer­i­can life, not only in our schools, but more broadly through­out our insti­tu­tions.  This very real frus­tra­tion is what fuels the #Black­Lives­Mat­ter move­ment.  Dig­nity, equity and oppor­tu­nity can­not be abstrac­tions for any seg­ment of our soci­ety – they need to be the com­mon denom­i­na­tors of every Amer­i­can dream.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded over 100 years ago to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. This time­less mis­sion has fueled our con­stant com­mit­ment to stop anti-Semitism and big­otry in all forms and to secure civil rights and social jus­tice for all peo­ple.  Through­out the 1950’s and 1960’s, this mis­sion inspired our ded­i­ca­tion to the strug­gle for civil rights, fight­ing along­side our broth­ers and sis­ters in the African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity to achieve land­mark vot­ing and anti-discrimination leg­is­la­tion. We made enor­mous strides in those years, and those civil rights laws pro­vide impor­tant legal safe­guards that per­sist today.

But now, we and other civil rights orga­ni­za­tions must address the real­ity that laws are some­times eas­ier to change than atti­tudes, and that both sub­con­scious and overt racism per­sist in Amer­ica.  Unfor­tu­nately, we can­not just wish away the struc­tural racism and uncon­scious bias that per­me­ate so many aspects of Amer­i­can life, includ­ing our schools and other insti­tu­tions.  In this moment, we need to acknowl­edge the real­i­ties around us and recom­mit our­selves to this work.

Of course, the bur­den of address­ing racism and bias must not fall solely on the shoul­ders of com­mu­ni­ties of color or other minor­ity groups.  All seg­ments of soci­ety have a respon­si­bil­ity to lis­ten care­fully to the voices and frus­tra­tions of this gen­er­a­tion of activists who want what we all want—a more just soci­ety. We are pre­pared to take on this chal­lenge and to renew our effort to ensure jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all.

Tags: , , , , , ,

September 11, 2015 1

Marching for Fairness – the NAACP Journey for Justice

After par­tic­i­pat­ing in the his­toric vot­ing rights march from Selma to Mont­gomery on March 21, 1965, Rabbi Abram­son Joshua Hes­chel famously said:

“For many of us the march from Selma to Mont­gomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walk­ing is not kneel­ing. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even with­out words, our march was wor­ship. I felt my legs were praying.”


ADL Direc­tor of Inter­faith Affairs Rabbi David Sand­mel and NAACP Pres­i­dent and CEO Cor­nell Brooks on the road to Wash­ing­ton DC as part of the Jour­ney for Justice.


That march played a sig­nif­i­cant role in prompt­ing Con­gress to enact the land­mark Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) – per­haps the most impor­tant and effec­tive civil rights leg­is­la­tion ever passed.   In the half cen­tury since then, the VRA has secured and safe­guarded the right to vote for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans. Its suc­cess in elim­i­nat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tory bar­ri­ers to full civic par­tic­i­pa­tion and in advanc­ing equal polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment is undeniable.

Some­times legs pray.

And some­times legs carry you to Wash­ing­ton DC to demand progress toward jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all.

Today, fifty years after the pas­sage of the VRA, and two years after a deeply trou­bling Supreme Court deci­sion that essen­tially gut­ted the heart of the leg­is­la­tion — marchers are on their way to Wash­ing­ton to demand vot­ing rights pro­tec­tions again.  The NAACP has orga­nized America’s Jour­ney for Jus­tice, which started in Selma on August 1.  The Anti-Defamation League is one of the sup­port­ing orga­ni­za­tions for the 1000-mile march, as we had sup­ported the orig­i­nal Selma to Mont­gomery march.  Then-ADL National Direc­tor Ben Epstein wrote,

“We walked together—more than 3,000 Amer­i­cans: Negroes and whites, min­is­ters, rab­bis, Catholic nuns, stu­dents, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of orga­ni­za­tions, those who belonged to no group other than the human race—all in peace­ful demon­stra­tion against blind vio­lence, in ‘gigan­tic wit­ness’ to the con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed right of all cit­i­zens to reg­is­ter and vote.”

Jour­ney to Jus­tice cul­mi­nates in an Advo­cacy Day on the Cap­i­tal Hill on Sep­tem­ber 16.  Marchers and their sup­port­ers will have dozens of meet­ings with Mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Sen­ate.  The prin­ci­pal focal point for the lob­by­ing will be the need to address the dev­as­tat­ing impact of Shelby County v. Holder, a 2013 Supreme Court deci­sion which gut­ted a key pro­vi­sion of the VRA, dra­mat­i­cally lim­it­ing its effec­tive­ness and reach.

Last Novem­ber – the first major elec­tion since Shelby County – there were new restric­tions on vot­ing in 15 states, endan­ger­ing vot­ing rights for hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans. From voter ID laws that threaten to dis­en­fran­chise African Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos, stu­dents and elderly vot­ers, to cuts to early vot­ing and oner­ous require­ments for voter reg­is­tra­tion, the right to vote is in peril.

The proper response to the Shelby County deci­sion is the bipar­ti­san Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act of 2015 (S. 1659/H.R. 2867).  The VRAA reasserts appro­pri­ate fed­eral over­sight over efforts to change state and local vot­ing laws and pro­vides addi­tional safe­guards for voting.

Since, 1965 reaf­firm­ing the nation’s com­mit­ment to full vot­ing rights for all has never been con­tro­ver­sial.  Each time the VRA came up for reau­tho­riza­tion it has received over­whelm­ing, bipar­ti­san Con­gres­sional sup­port.  The last time Con­gress extended the VRA, in 2006, it did so after an exhaus­tive hear­ings on vot­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and the impact of the VRA – result­ing in thou­sands of pages of doc­u­men­ta­tion.  The leg­is­la­tion passed over­whelm­ingly: 390 to 33 in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and 98–0 in the Senate.

As we have com­mem­o­rated the 50th anniver­sary of the Vot­ing Rights Act (VRA) this sum­mer, we have been reminded just how far we have come – how impact­ful the VRA has been in ensur­ing the rights of all Amer­i­cans to have their say in our democ­racy.   Jour­ney for Jus­tice marchers and their sup­port­ers are demon­strat­ing that Con­gress must do more than merely com­mem­o­rate anniver­saries of his­toric civil rights vic­to­ries.  They must act.  Now is the time for Con­gress to act to restore the pro­tec­tions of the VRA and secure the right to vote for all Americans.


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

August 31, 2015 2

Virginia Shootings Spur White Supremacist Vitriol

Within hours of the deadly August 26 on-air shoot­ing of tele­vi­sion reporter Ali­son Parker and cam­era­man Adam Ward in Roanoke, Vir­ginia, the on-line white suprema­cist world erupted in hate­ful rhetoric and dis­cus­sions of violence.vamurderscomment

The shooter, Vester Flana­gan (also known as Bryce Williams), was some­one whom white suprema­cists could eas­ily exploit to gen­er­ate anger. His vic­tims were white; Flana­gan was a black, gay man with a his­tory of fil­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion com­plaints against for­mer employ­ers, includ­ing the tele­vi­sion sta­tion where the slain jour­nal­ists worked.

Flana­gan killed him­self as police caught up to him, but not before he faxed to ABC News a lengthy sui­cide note/manifesto, detail­ing a litany of griev­ances and per­ceived mis­treat­ment because of his race and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. More­over, in his note he directly ref­er­enced the June 2015 Charleston shoot­ings, in which white suprema­cist Dylann Storm Roof killed nine African-American church­go­ers. Flana­gan tried to explain his murders—seemingly com­mit­ted for per­sonal reasons—as a retal­i­a­tion for Roof’s own killings. Refer­ring to Roof’s hope that a race war would result from his shoot­ings, Flana­gan wrote “You want a race war…THEN BRING IT.”

Reac­tions from the racist right were swift and involved well-worn anti-black and anti-Semitic tropes. Among them: that black peo­ple shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, because they have “no impulse con­trol,” and that the vic­tims, as mem­bers of the “Jew­ish media,” deserved to die. And above all, an echo of Roof’s call for race war: The hope that the shoot­ings would spark a “rev­o­lu­tion” of whites ris­ing up against their osten­si­ble oppres­sors (blacks and Jews) and strik­ing back.

The New Order, a small Wisconsin-based neo-Nazi group, pre­sented a typ­i­cal anti-black response, issu­ing a state­ment head­lined “White Lives Mat­ter” that described the shoot­ings as a crime com­mit­ted by “a deranged anti-White Negro” and claimed that “The mur­der, rape and assault of White peo­ple by racist Black crim­i­nals is a daily event in the United States.”

Anti-Semitism shaped the responses of many white suprema­cists. On Storm­front, the large white suprema­cist dis­cus­sion forum, poster Red­Baron claimed that reporter Parker “was part of the Jew con­trolled media. The pro­pa­ganda she helped to put on the air came back to haunt her (to death).” The “Jew­ish plot” trope was repeated by another Storm­fron­ter: “I don’t think the Jew power struc­ture wants a fully awake white pub­lic right now. They’ve been doing every­thing to drug us into a stu­por as they incite blacks to mur­der us.”

At the neo-Nazi web­site Daily Stormer, poster GuiMas­ter also had lit­tle sym­pa­thy for Parker: “But how do we know that this woman was ‘noble?’ She was work­ing for the anti-White media. How aware was she that her job involves spread­ing com­mu­nist anti-White hate pro­pa­ganda?” On Face­book, another white suprema­cist labeled Parker’s father, who had appeared on Fox News to plead for more gun con­trol mea­sures, a “Zio-Marxist” push­ing a “Jew­ish” agenda.

For many white suprema­cists, though, it was Flanagan’s ref­er­ence to “race war” that most exer­cised them. For them, the sole bright spot in the killings was that they might speed the start of an antic­i­pated racial con­flict. At the Daily Stormer, for exam­ple, one com­menter wrote: “When the ‘race war’ comes, it’s gonna be us killing them in short order.”

On Storm­front, long­time Arkansas white suprema­cist Billy Roper hoped the killings would “awaken more of our peo­ple to see it as the reprisal act it was in a war which is just begin­ning, in fits and starts, as they so often do.” Mean­while, on the Face­book page of “Amer­i­can White His­tory Month,” Jon Winslow wrote: “White peo­ple! Start riot­ing now!”

Oth­ers seemed inter­ested in actions more seri­ous that riot­ing. Storm­front poster 14words_of_truth wrote: “Peo­ple keep ask­ing me ‘when is the race war going to start?’ It started a long time ago; it is not going to start, it is going to change. The change will be that the White Man will start fight­ing back.”

To which Storm­front edi­tor Jack­Boot replied, “Well said. So far we can’t esca­late from the war of words on our side, and that esca­la­tion is long past due. They’ve been spilling our blood for years, and I’m not talk­ing only about the Jews’ prox­ies. We got a lotta catch-up to play.”

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