racism Archives - ADL Blogs » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘racism’
April 22, 2016 0

A Passover Reflection on Vestiges of American Slavery

By Lau­ren Jones, Civil Rights National Counsel

As Jews gather around the Seder table to tell the story of the Exo­dus from Egypt, we are com­manded to tell the story as if we had per­son­ally fled slav­ery. We will read from the Hagad­dah, “This year we are slaves. Next year may we all be free.”

Photo credit Wikipedia Commons

Photo credit Wikipedia Commons

In grade school we learned in his­tory classes that the 13th Amend­ment abol­ished slav­ery in the United States in 1865. What fewer learn or remem­ber, how­ever, is that there is one crit­i­cal excep­tion: the 13th Amend­ment abol­ished slav­ery “except as a pun­ish­ment for crime.” For decades after the abo­li­tion of slav­ery, South­ern states engaged in “con­vict leasing”—the prac­tice of send­ing peo­ple con­victed of crimes to work on plan­ta­tions or for pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions like rail­way con­trac­tors. Per­haps unsur­pris­ingly, nine-tenths of peo­ple impris­oned were black.

In 1893, in The Rea­son Why, Fred­er­ick Dou­glass wrote this of African Amer­i­cans caught up in the abhor­rent system:

Pos­sess­ing nei­ther money to employ lawyers nor influ­en­tial friends, they are sen­tenced in large num­bers to long terms of impris­on­ment for petty crimes. The People’s Advo­cate, a Negro jour­nal, of Atlanta, Geor­gia, has the fol­low­ing obser­va­tion on the prison show­ing of that state for 1892. ‘It is an astound­ing fact that 90 per­cent of the state’s con­victs are col­ored; 194 white males and 2 white females; 1,710 col­ored males and 44 col­ored females. Is it pos­si­ble that Geor­gia is so color prej­u­diced that she won’t con­vict her white law-breakers? Yes, it is just so, but we hope for a bet­ter day.’

Thank­fully, the United States no longer engages in con­vict leas­ing. But the shame­ful his­tory of a sys­tem that incar­cer­ated an over­whelm­ingly African Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion and con­tin­ued to enslave them after the offi­cial abo­li­tion of slav­ery plagues us to this day. Almost 125 years after Fred­er­ick Dou­glass wrote those words, racial injus­tice still runs through­out our crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

Mass incar­cer­a­tion in the United States con­tin­ues to have a disproportionate—and devastating—impact on com­mu­ni­ties of color. Although approx­i­mately thirty per­cent of peo­ple in the United States are African Amer­i­can or Latino, almost sixty per­cent of pris­on­ers are. In 2006, one in 14 African Amer­i­can men was incar­cer­ated, com­pared with one in 106 white men. Today the United States incar­cer­ates a higher per­cent­age of black men than South Africa did dur­ing the height of apartheid. If cur­rent trends con­tinue, one in three African Amer­i­can male babies born today will spend some of his life behind bars.

Stud­ies show that crime rates do not account for the racial dis­par­i­ties in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Rather, laws that pun­ish par­tic­u­lar behav­iors more than oth­ers, as well as sys­temic racism that under­girds poli­cies and prac­tices, all con­tribute. For exam­ple, stud­ies con­firm that whites are just as likely to use drugs as African Americans—and are as likely or even more likely to deal drugs—but police are twice as likely to arrest African Amer­i­cans for drug crimes as whites. In some states, African Amer­i­can men are serv­ing time for drug-related charges at a rate that is twenty to fifty times higher than rates for white men.

Racial dis­par­i­ties per­vade each step in the crim­i­nal jus­tice system—from stops to arrests, pros­e­cu­tion to sen­tenc­ing. For exam­ple, pros­e­cu­tors are approx­i­mately twice as likely to file charges against African Amer­i­can defen­dants that include manda­tory min­i­mums, and African Amer­i­can men on aver­age serve ten per­cent longer sen­tences for the same crime as white men. In Geor­gia, where a “two strikes and you’re out” law imposed a life sen­tence for a sec­ond drug offense, for exam­ple, dis­trict attor­neys invoked the law one per­cent of the time in pros­e­cut­ing white defen­dants accused of a sec­ond drug offense, but 16 per­cent of the time in pros­e­cut­ing African Amer­i­can defen­dants accused of a sec­ond drug offense. The result was that 98.4 per­cent of peo­ple serv­ing life sen­tences under the two strikes law were African Amer­i­can. Race—including con­scious and uncon­scious biases—clearly con­tin­ues to play a deeply trou­bling role through­out the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

As we begin the Passover cel­e­bra­tions, and tell the story of the lib­er­a­tion from slav­ery in Egypt, may we also think about the ves­tiges of slav­ery here in the United States. May we com­mit our­selves to end­ing mass incar­cer­a­tion and work­ing towards more jus­tice in our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. As Fred­er­ick Dou­glass hoped for a bet­ter day, may we com­mit our­selves to cre­at­ing one. And next year, may we all be free.

Tags: , , , , , ,

April 20, 2016 15

White Supremacists Up in Arms over Tubman on $20 Bill

Harriet Tubman. Photo Credit: Ohio History Connection (OHC) via U.S. Treasury Department, dated circa 1887 by H.G. Smith, Studio Building, Boston.

Har­riet Tub­man. Photo Credit: Ohio His­tory Con­nec­tion (OHC) via U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment, dated circa 1887 by H.G. Smith, Stu­dio Build­ing, Boston.

On April 20, the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment announced that famous abo­li­tion­ist and res­cuer of slaves Har­riet Tub­man will be the new face of the $20 bill, replac­ing Andrew Jack­son (who moves to the bill’s back). The move is intended to answer a long-standing call for more diver­sity on America’s paper cur­rency. Tub­man, a for­mer slave her­self, helped hun­dreds of other slaves escape into freedom.

Ini­tial reac­tions were largely positive—but not among racists and white suprema­cists, who wasted no time react­ing to the news with ferocious–and unsurprising–venom. “Talk­ing mon­key Har­riet Tub­man to replace Indian killer Jack­son on $20 bill,” Andrew Anglin, edi­tor and founder of the white suprema­cist Daily Stormer web­site, announced on his blog.  A forum mem­ber on the white suprema­cist mes­sage board Storm­front warned, “Just make very sure you don’t ‘inte­grate’ this new $20 bill into your wal­let. You’ll likely find the rest of your money miss­ing in no time.”

Other Storm­front con­trib­u­tors posited the idea of “hav­ing fun” with the new bill by defac­ing it. One sug­gested he would make a stamp with a “white nation­al­ist cross” and the words “White Pride World Wide” to embla­zon on every $20 bill he encoun­ters. Yet another pledged never to use the new $20 bill, to demand to be given other bills instead.

On Face­book, racist com­ments also sur­faced quickly. Some­one post­ing as “Pete Lam­bro” wrote, “Who the hell is har­riet tub­man [sic]…if Obama want to put an african amer­i­cans [sic] Pic­ture [sic] on some­thing how about food stamps or ebt cards.”  In another Face­book post­ing,  a “Nick Fran­cis” com­plained that “now we have to stare at a mon­key every time we get paid.”

Oth­ers were quick to intro­duce anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries, alleg­ing that the Trea­sury Depart­ment announce­ment was the brain­child of the Jews.  One anti-Semite posted to his Face­book page the com­ment “More Zion­ist Jack Jew,” refer­ring to Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Jack Lew.  A Storm­front poster using the screen­name Proud_White_Chap asked, “Who cares who Jews put on their fake paper? Andrew Jack­son fought against them and they besmirched his mem­ory by plac­ing him on the 20 dol­lar bill.” This seems to be a ref­er­ence to the anti-Semitic belief that Jews con­trol the bank­ing sys­tem and to the fact that Jack­son dis­man­tled the U.S.’s national bank.

A Trea­sury spokesper­son said the design for the new bills will be made pub­lic in 2020, the cen­ten­nial of women win­ning the right to vote. The actual cur­rency, how­ever, won’t be in cir­cu­la­tion until 2030, giv­ing white suprema­cists plenty of time to gnash their teeth and accu­mu­late other denominations.

White suprema­cists will prob­a­bly be no hap­pier with the new $5 and $10 bills, how­ever, which are to fea­ture five women’s suf­frage activists, Eleanor Roo­sevelt, and African-Americans Mar­ian Ander­son and Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., on the reverse sides.

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

March 17, 2016 3

Reconciliation Cannot Mean Turning a Blind Eye to Farrakhan’s Anti-Semitism

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Farrakhan - Iran

As the new CEO of ADL, I have recom­mit­ted ADL to our his­toric civil rights agenda. In my short tenure as head of ADL, I have brought my lead­er­ship team to the cra­dle of the civil rights move­ment in Atlanta, Selma and Mont­gomery to recom­mit to our immense task of achiev­ing equal jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. We have vig­or­ously lob­bied Con­gress to pass leg­is­la­tion to undo the dam­age to the Vot­ing Rights Act caused by the Supreme Court rul­ing in 2013; we have chan­neled our out­rage after the tragedy in Charleston to launch a coalition-based cam­paign of #50StatesAgainstHate to ensure that all states have effec­tive hate crime laws to pro­tect African-Americans and other mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties; and we have taken up issues of edu­ca­tion equity and the school to prison pipeline. And we are com­mit­ting to address­ing the injus­tice of mass incar­cer­a­tion, inci­dents of police bru­tal­ity and crim­i­nal jus­tice reform.

In the name of work­ing to ensure equal­ity, how­ever, we are unwill­ing to give a pass to anti-Semitism and hate as exhib­ited by Louis Far­rakhan and the Nation of Islam.

Indeed, one of the prin­ci­ples that under­lie efforts to pro­vide rights for all is the need to stand against big­otry wher­ever it sur­faces. That was why I was frus­trated to read Rus­sell Sim­mons’ blog on Louis Far­rakhan – “The Nation of Islam and the Anti-Defamation League– Now Is the Time to Mend Fences.”

Civil rights and social jus­tice are core pri­or­i­ties for ADL under my lead­er­ship. But let me be clear: When it comes to the big­otry of Louis Far­rakhan, there is not one iota sep­a­rat­ing me from my predecessor.

It always was true and remains so today that expos­ing and con­demn­ing Farrakhan’s hatred does not mean that he is beyond redemp­tion. All of us should admit that we can do bet­ter.  But the onus for “mend­ing fences” is not on the tar­gets of his hate, but on Min­is­ter Far­rakhan himself.

Min­is­ter Far­rakhan, like oth­ers who engage in hate, has the oppor­tu­nity to change. He could repu­di­ate his long his­tory of anti-Semitic state­ments, speeches and pub­li­ca­tions.  He could pub­licly com­mit never again to engage in such big­otry.  When this hap­pens, it could be a his­toric moment and an oppor­tu­nity to turn a new page.

But he has not done so. In fact, in recent years, he has actu­ally dou­bled down on his anti-Semitic rants, accus­ing Jews of respon­si­bil­ity for 9–11, which he describes as “a false flag oper­a­tion that was designed to…so frighten, alarm, and anger the Amer­i­can peo­ple that they could direct that anger against the Mus­lim world.” He has spun con­spir­acy the­o­ries of nefar­i­ous Jew­ish con­trol of the African-American com­mu­nity, of America’s polit­i­cal sys­tem and media, and just about any other con­spir­acy the­ory that anti-Semites peddle.

We know that many in the African-American com­mu­nity have pos­i­tive feel­ings toward Min­is­ter Far­rakhan. We know that he has done much for his community.

I appre­ci­ate that Rus­sell Sim­mons wants to see rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. I know Rus­sell is authen­tic in his desire to bring the par­ties together.  And I am sure that many oth­ers would like to see a sim­i­lar rap­proche­ment. But it’s unfor­tu­nate that Rus­sell dis­misses the long his­tory of hatred that has char­ac­ter­ized Min­is­ter Farrakhan’s remarks. But Farrakhan’s big­otry can­not so eas­ily be brushed aside.

There is long his­tory of big­otry that ADL has con­sis­tently spo­ken out against.  And this is not ancient his­tory. As recently as last week, Far­rakhan reit­er­ated his obses­sion with Jews and our “wicked­ness.” And in prior pub­lic state­ments, we have heard his racism, his hate­ful state­ments directed at the LGBT com­mu­nity, and some­times his use of vio­lent rhetoric.

And the prob­lem is com­pounded when good peo­ple like Rus­sell Sim­mons will­fully ignore this real­ity or opt to min­i­mize such hos­til­ity, and then end up blam­ing ADL for the alien­ation from Far­rakhan. There undoubt­edly are pos­i­tive aspects to Min­is­ter Farrakhan’s mes­sage to mem­bers of the African-American com­mu­nity, but no one should get a pass for hatred.

To set the record straight, there is no truth to the accu­sa­tion that ADL calls “every African Amer­i­can leader an anti-Semite.” This is an out­ra­geous charge on its face, con­sid­er­ing that ADL has worked on behalf of civil rights in this coun­try for decades. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. was an ally and my pre­de­ces­sor marched along­side him in Selma and stood with him at the White House. ADL and African Amer­i­can lead­ers have worked hand in hand on many issues for generations.

While it is true that some pub­lic fig­ures from the African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity have made big­oted state­ments that we have crit­i­cized, we have done the same when lead­ers from other com­mu­ni­ties also expressed anti-Semitism or other forms of prej­u­dice, and even crit­i­cized big­otry from mem­bers of our own community.

But to say, how­ever, that we accused Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young and other Black lead­ers of being anti-Semites is flat out wrong and deeply hurt­ful. Yet this is a trope that Min­is­ter Far­rakhan has used to wash him­self clean of the very real charge levied against him for his hate. It is dis­ap­point­ing to see that Rus­sell has restated these false claims.

ADL will con­tinue to rein­vig­o­rate its work on the civil rights agenda because our mis­sion and val­ues com­pel us to. This work is a moral imper­a­tive in ful­fill­ment of our mis­sion to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. In pur­suit of that mis­sion, we will con­tinue to expose and vig­or­ously con­demn big­otry wher­ever it appears, includ­ing the anti-Semitism and big­otry of Louis Farrakhan.

But all of us can change.  When Min­is­ter Far­rakhan is ready to make the same moral choice – to treat all of God’s chil­dren with the same dig­nity and respect – and pub­licly speak out against anti-Semitism or big­otry toward oth­ers whom he has demeaned, we will be ready to engage with him.

Tags: , , , , ,