Stop the Hate

We can all make a concerted effort to “see something, say something,” whether the verbal or physical attack was on you, a friend, family member or even a complete stranger. 

The eight Asian spa murders in Atlanta. A 65-year-old Asian American woman kicked in the stomach and face while being verbally attacked in New York City. A Jewish family slashed with a knife, also in Manhattan. Constant attacks on African Americans.

Sadly, today, many Americans are in constant fear for their safety simply because of the color of their skin, whom they love or how they choose to pray.

Earlier this month, the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assaults and Threats to Equality (NO HATE) Act was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 2383., and into the Senate a few days later. It had been passed twice in the 116th Congress by the House but was never passed by the Senate. In the 117th Congress, the Senate passed the bill on April 22. In the House, leading the bipartisan charge to get it passed are four representatives, two Democrats and two Republicans, the latter which includes Michigan’s own Fred Upton of the 4th District.

To date, Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from the 3rd District (Grand Rapids), has signed on as a co-sponsor and several other Michigan representatives are on the waitlist to be included.

For some background, Khalid and Heather, for whom the bill was named, were real people whose lives were cut short because of hate. Jabara, an Oklahoma native of Lebanese Christian descent, was shot and killed by his white neighbor in 2016. Heyer, who many are familiar with, was killed while counterprotesting at the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

Reporting of Hate

The goal of this legislation is to close the gaps in the reporting of hate crimes across the nation, namely incentivizing state and local law enforcement to improve reporting by making grants available to provide resources such as trainings, reporting hotlines, public educational forums and increased resources to communicate with affected communities. 

One may ask: Why is reporting such a large part of this bill? 

Each year, the FBI publishes the previous year’s hate crimes statistics. While it is shocking to see how many and which groups are targeted, it is perhaps more upsetting when one realizes that the numbers they share are woefully inaccurate and, in reality, much higher. This is because not every municipality reports hate crimes accurately, or at all, and many victims are afraid to go to authorities. Today, only 13 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies submit any hate crimes data to the FBI. In the Jewish community, per the American Jewish Committee’s 2020 State of Antisemitism in America report, 76 percent of Jews who were the target of a hateful remark or attack did not report it.

So, without proper reporting, what would incentivize victims to go to the authorities? How else will resources that could possibly curb the rising numbers be provided, such as the forums and trainings?

To help make hate crimes a terrible memory of the past, we, as Jews, must remember that we have been taught to love our neighbor and to make this a better world through tikkun olam. Today, there may be no better way to show our love than supporting the NO HATE Act, which will inevitably help all Americans, no matter their religion, skin color or sexuality. 

We can all make a concerted effort to “see something, say something,” whether the verbal or physical attack was on you, a friend, family member or even a complete stranger.  

Lauren Garfield-Herrin is associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC.

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