JACL grieves the loss of life in the wake of multiple hate crimes this past week. On Thursday, two African American seniors were executed in a Louisville, Kentucky grocery store in what appears to be a racially motivated killing. Saturday, while attending sabbath services at the Tree of Life Synagogue, eleven worshipers were gunned down in one of the deadliest acts of anti-semitism in this country’s history. Both of these events happened against the backdrop of seven pipe bombs sent in the mail to prominent political figures who have been noted as having spoken in opposition to the President.
Though the President eventually and rightfully condemned the Pittsburgh massacre as an act of anti-semitism, we cannot ignore that the seeds of this weekend’s killings were sown in the blatant display of racism aimed at the Jewish community in Charlottesville over a year ago. The President acknowledged the 2017 white supremacist rally by stating that there was violence and bigotry from many sides. As we continue to see an increase in targeted hate crimes against minorities, it is impossible to acknowledge that these acts are coming from “many sides”. There was no bigotry or hate from Maurice E. Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones who were peacefully grocery shopping, and certainly not from Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil and David Rosenthal, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger, who were worshipping Saturday morning. The bigotry and hatred is one sided and is coming from those who are perpetrating these violent acts against Jews, Muslims, LQBTQIA+ individuals, communities of color, and immigrants.
That the President is unwilling to confront the increasing waves of anti-semitism and overarching racism in this country is disturbing. Statistics from the Department of Justice make this trend abundantly clear, when from 2016 to 2017 there was a nearly 60% increase in documented anti-semitic hate crimes. This weekend’s shooting was a direct manifestation of this continued upward trend. Furthermore, President Trump’s proud proclamation to be a nationalist is a dangerous evocation of how nationalism has been utilized to historically oppress minority communities, including but not limited to this country’s incarceration of Japanese Americans, and the taking of land and mass murder of Indigenous Nations. Nazi Germany was the most tragic example of extreme nationalism used as a tactic to extinguish millions of Jews.
The President must do more than condemn acts of hate after they have happened. The consequences of the words chosen by the President must be considered, and if they continue to promote hate and falsehoods, must be called out and denounced by all people of conscience. President Trump must fully engage the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security in collaboration with local police to increase efforts to prevent the increasing tide of hate crimes. Words of condemnation without action will result only in further unnecessary and preventable violence. The time to act is now, lest we see history repeat itself.