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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.


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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.”

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July 24, 2015 4

Lafayette Shooting Suspect Fixated on Perceived Moral Decay


John Rus­sell Hauser (Louisiana State Police)

A pre­lim­i­nary exam­i­na­tion of the on-line writ­ings of John Rus­sell Houser, who killed him­self last night after a vicious shoot­ing spree at a movie the­ater in Lafayette, Louisiana, that left two dead and nine oth­ers injured, reveals a twisted, angry man upset at a per­ceived moral decay that he thought was destroy­ing the United States.

Houser, orig­i­nally from Geor­gia but who had lived in var­i­ous places across the South prior to the shoot­ing, spent much of his free time in recent years mak­ing short, angry posts to on-line dis­cus­sion forums and com­ment sec­tions on var­i­ous web­sites, often using the screen name “Rusty Houser.” In many of these posts, Houser dis­cussed his belief that the United States was “about to fall.”

His dis­con­tent with the United States led him to make extreme anti-American state­ments, such as describ­ing the United States as “the enemy of the world.” When, in the win­ter of 2015, some 200 cars piled up in a multi-vehicle snow­storm acci­dent, Houser claimed that “the lack of moral Amer­i­cans stand­ing for any­thing makes me wish it were 200 747’s.”

In another post­ing, he wrote that he was “with all those who hate the filth farm known as the U.S.” In 2014, Houser claimed that “all coun­tries that hate the U.S.” needed to unite.

As some of these state­ments indi­cate, Houser was obsessed with the notion of moral decay in the United States; this obses­sion fueled much of his anger.

Anti-black racism played an impor­tant role in Houser’s vision of decay and doom. He repeat­edly argued that blacks should be deported because they, as he said in one 2013 post­ing, “WILL NOT WORK and have NO FAMILY VALUES.” This was lan­guage Houser used again and again, some­times refer­ring to blacks explic­itly, at other times describ­ing them in other ways, such as “another race, not Latinos.”

In 2014, Houser claimed that “fail­ing to men­tion the role of Blacks in build­ing and main­tain­ing the alliance of evil that lit­er­ally grips the globe” would slow the re-taking of Amer­ica. “Else­where, this par­tic­u­lar role is the Jew. Here in the U.S., it is the Black.” In another 2014 post­ing, Houser elab­o­rated on the morality-hating peo­ple who allegedly con­trolled Amer­ica, an alliance con­sist­ing of 1) upper class whites; 2) Blacks; and 3) “mis­fits,” which Houser listed as “homos, trans­ves­tites, peo­ple who will not work, peo­ple with no cul­ture, etc.”

Other sources of decay for Houser included athe­ists, lib­er­als, and gays—in the lat­ter instance, Houser even sup­ported the rabidly homo­pho­bic West­boro Bap­tist Church.

In con­trast, Houser admired other eth­nic or reli­gious groups, such as Lati­nos or Mus­lims. This was because he viewed such groups as either hard work­ing or with strong moral val­ues, or both. “I will never under­stand,” he posted in 2013,” why the hard work­ing, morally supe­rior Lati­nos never bring up for dis­cus­sion the other race which is known to be com­pletely the oppo­site for the most part.”

Refer­ring to Mus­lim immi­grants, for exam­ple, he said, “those com­ing in are far more decent morally than the aver­age Amer­i­can.” Ira­ni­ans, he wrote in late 2013, were “far higher morally than this finan­cially fail­ing filth farm.”

Faced with this fan­tasy sce­nario of doom and decay, Hauser seemed to have hoped for a man on horse­back who would sweep away all the per­ceived moral filth—a Travis Bickle writ large. “The one bright spot,” he wrote on one forum in 2013, “is that all mat­ters in need of tidy­ing up will be dealt with in sum­mary fash­ion soon.”

One of his mod­els for such a leader was Adolf Hitler, whom he repeat­edly praised. In 2013, he wrote that “Hitler’s reac­tion to much would be invalu­able now, if 98% weren’t brain­washed in the U.S.” In early 2015, he claimed that Hitler “accom­plished far more” than any other lead­ers. Around the same time, he claimed that “decent peo­ple can retake the entire world, as Hitler proved.”

In a dif­fer­ent 2015 post­ing, Houser wrote that “Hitler is loved for the results of his prag­ma­tism” and that “the U.S. is no more than a finan­cially fail­ing filth farm. Soon the phrase ‘rul­ing with an iron hand’ will be palat­able anew.”

In 2013, Houser had sim­i­lar views on Amer­i­can white suprema­cist fig­ure David Duke, writ­ing that “at one time [Duke] appeared exactly what the U.S. needed.”

Houser also admired the Golden Dawn, a Greek neo-Nazi polit­i­cal party, describ­ing them in 2014 as “com­posed of moral peo­ple.” Else­where, he described their ideas as “a legit­i­mate effort to solve prob­lems” and their lead­ers as “intel­li­gent, well spo­ken, and exer­cis­ing good faith.”

Houser had sim­i­larly admir­ing views of a vari­ety of other extrem­ist groups and move­ments, includ­ing rad­i­cal Islamists. “Yes, I am salut­ing the fun­da­men­tal­ist Mus­lims,” he said in Jan­u­ary 2015, “They have stood against evil.” He added, in a follow-up post, “They have my com­plete Chris­t­ian respect.”

These atti­tudes and opin­ions, which reveal them­selves so strik­ingly in Houser’s writ­ings, raise the unset­tling but real pos­si­bil­ity that he delib­er­ately chose a show­ing of the movie Train­wreck at which to launch a Taxi Dri­ver–like spree of vio­lence. The writer and star of the movie, tal­ented young come­dian Amy Schumer, has received con­sid­er­able media atten­tion thanks to the movie and her pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion show, and, given her cho­sen comedic per­sona of a sex­u­ally free-wheeling woman, as well as her lib­eral opin­ions, one could imag­ine how a dis­turbed mind like Houser’s could come to focus on the movie as a sym­bol for all of his dark fan­tasies about moral decay in America.

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