This is an excerpt from Norman Braman’s powerful keynote speech at the American Jewish Committee’s National Human Relations Dec. 6 dinner in Miami, at which businessman Mike Fernandez was honored.
We now live in a nation that is openly marred by hate, where people shamelessly shout venom whenever and wherever they desire. This past presidential campaign allowed the genie out of the bottle — the genie of hate. And remember, when the hand of hate raises its finger, it may point in any direction.
Let us understand that hatred has always existed, but now, certain fringe groups feel empowered to promote their intolerance with a sense of openness that is alarming and very real.
Our president-elect, and all our leaders, regardless of party or religion, must unequivocally proclaim that there is no place for hate in our United States of America.
It is easy to try and console oneself by saying that the recent meeting of the alt-right National Policy Institute at the Ronald Reagan Building — just steps away from the White House and led by its president, Richard Spencer — consisted of only 200 people, despite the fact that they saluted each other with the very same raised-arm gesture suggestive of the Nazi regime.
Remember, Adolf Hitler delivered his first speech in a beer cellar to a crowd of a little more than 100.
Does the possibility exist that these small and growing groups espousing hate today will become a threat to the values we hold dear as Americans?
We must safeguard our treasured democratic and pluralistic way of life, and that requires our vigilance and willingness to speak out boldly.
Mike Fernandez has taught us just how to do so, and we are all the beneficiaries of his stalwart and vocal activism.
Today, what we are witnessing is a backlash against Hispanics, African Americans, Muslim Americans, the LGBTQ community and, of course, Jews.
Here is just some of the evidence amid many thousands of accounts throughout our country:
▪ Nov. 9, Royal Oak, Michigan: A group of middle-school students were caught on video shouting “build the wall” at Latino students during lunch at the cafeteria.
▪ Nov. 17, West Springfield, Massachusetts: A Puerto Rican family’s car was vandalized with the words “Trump” and “Go home” scratched into the car. The father is an army veteran who has served two deployments overseas.
▪ Nov. 13, Silver Spring, Maryland: Signs advertising Spanish services at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour were ripped and vandalized with the words, “Trump nation whites only.”
The same message was written on a brick wall near the church’s memorial garden. Other churches in the area, especially those with large Latino congregations, were targeted in similar ways.
▪ Nov. 9, York County School of Technology, Pennsylvania: High school students yell, “White power” to Latino and African-American students while holding up a Trump sign.
▪ Nov. 9, South Philadelphia: Spray-painted swastikas and other racist graffiti with references to Trump were spotted at a storefront.
▪ Nov. 9, Texas State University: Fliers depicting men in camouflage, wielding guns and an American flag, appeared in men’s restrooms: “Now that our man Trump is elected,” they said, “time to organize tar-and-feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off that diversity garbage.”
▪ Nov. 9, Durham, North Carolina: Walls facing a busy intersection were painted with graffiti with the message: “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes.”
▪ Nov. 10, New York: Vandalism of a softball field with anti-Semitic graffiti in Wellsville.
▪ Nov. 10, University of California-San Diego: Anti-Semitic graffiti is seen at a bus stop consisting of a swastika and the words “Heil Trump” spray-painted in red.
▪ Nov. 11, Cedar Hill, Texas: An African-American veteran is questioned about his military service at a restaurant by another patron wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt and is subsequently denied a Veterans Day promotion for a free meal.
▪ Nov. 17, New York University: Notes containing a swastika, “Make America White Again,” and “White Pride” were found on the dorm room door of a Jewish resident.
▪ Nov. 20, University of Florida, Gainesville: A swastika was spray-painted on the gate of a fraternity house. Unabashed bigotry and intolerance are also thriving on social media. The Anti-Defamation League “found 2.6 million anti-Semitic messages posted on Twitter from August 2015 to July 2016, and another 1 million from Nov. 8 to today.”
Today, Israel faces threats as never before. We are living in a strange time when it’s “normal” for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement to win support at the United Nations for its outrageous resolutions.
One of the most egregious is the recent UNESCO declaration negating Jerusalem and the Temple Mount’s intrinsic, undeniable and eternal centrality to Judaism and its profound connection to Christianity.
BDS’ anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. The organization Students for Justice in Palestine is active on college campuses, openly demonizing Israel, advocating for its destruction and bullying pro-Israel and Jewish students viciously.
Now is not the time to stay quiet. Bigotry and hate must be fought hard like a cancer that has metastasized and grown – every remedy must be used against it. We must be watchful and nurture those who are willing to stand up, speak out and take risks to better our world.