Originally written for Generation 42 Global Reformers July 4th Prayer Service
As we gather together virtually for the July 4th celebration, my first thought is to ask for the blessing of our Creator who has placed us all on this precious planet. Our faith leads us to a shared hope for a future where we can harmonize, not homogenize, at the intersection of race, ethnicity, religion, generation, and gender represented in this country. That hope was not a conscious one growing up in British Bermuda as the only Jewish little girl on the island. But I’m honored to now be recognized as a Diversity & Inclusion Trailblazer by Forbes Magazine. And I’m both honored and astounded to be an Award-winning author of 15 books on cultural diversity and the founder of the American Diversity Report where I’ve served as editor for 15 years.
I’m astounded because my early dream was to be a ballerina, forever in pink ballet slippers. But God had other plans for me. Perhaps that’s why, even as a youngster, I was surrounded by diverse cultures and appreciated their artistic expressions. Continue reading July 4th Prayer – by Deborah Levine→
Chattanooga’s Hadassah chapter asked me to address antisemitism with Michael Dzik, Exec. Director of the Jewish Federation and Chattanooga’s Mayor Andy Berke. Here is my Nov. 15, 2020 presentation.
Antisemitism goes back long before the term wascoined by a German historian in 1781. Violent attacks and expulsions of Jewish communities span centuries. The Babylonians exiled Jews from Zion, the earliest use of the term, into Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions. The Romans forced Jews into Europe. Blamed for causing the Black Plague, Jews were driven out of England, France, Germany, and Italy. They fled to Eastern Europe but experienced violent pogroms and isolation into The Pale. Throughout it all, the elements of antisemitism rarely changed.
For example, the Blood Libel dates as far back as the Temple in Jerusalem with claims that Jews sacrificed Greeks. It reappeared in the Middle Ages when an English cult announced that Passover Seder wine was actually Christian blood. Centuries later, a mob destroyed a synagogue in Damascus for this blood libel. As recently as 1928 in New York, Jews were accused of kidnapping and ritually killing a young girl.
Allyship is an inclusion and diversity strategy through which individuals with privilege support members of underrepresented groups in positive ways.Implementation of allyship strategies in work environments is increasing. There are many opportunities to use this strategy beyond the workplace, particularly in person social networking and media activities, to combat hatred toward underrepresented groups.
Hate, as a noun, is a passionate dislike, disgust, hostility or learned moral resentment of someone or something.As a verb, hate is to feel intense dislike, resentment, or hostility toward someone or something. Hatred is a demonstration of these feelings.Typically, hatred toward a group or class does not begin with extreme behaviors; instead, there is an incremental escalation which begins with less severe activities.
It’s a very hard thing to figure out what to do about reducing police violence in the US, especially reducing and eliminating racist violence. These issues keep coming to our attention largely because of undue and inappropriate police violence against unarmed African-American men. Recording of videos on cellphones and subsequent distribution on social media have made these tragedies much more public and apparent. These tragedies have been occurring for a very long time. Progress has been spotty and inadequate.
In classic strategic planning, we talk about what to stop doing, what to do more of, and what to do less of. There appear to be issues of organizational culture, where a substantial number of police departments are disconnected from morals, ethics, humanity, cultural competence, and the surrounding communities. Clearly, if an organization is being overtly discriminatory, they should stop doing that. But most of us aren’t overtly discriminatory, so our connection to the larger society must be producing discriminatory effects. The issues are complicated by the fact of about 19,000 largely independent police departments in the US.Continue reading Reducing Police Violence – by Marc Brenman→
This time of year should be all about kindness, generosity, and, of course, love. But there’s precious little love in the air these days. Whether watching the news, looking at Face Book, or checking out Twitter, what we see is the glorification of snark. Insults, meanness, threats, and derogatory language permeate every thread of our society’s fabric. We are at war with each other and love is hard to come by. So I resorted to love expressed in a different era, in a different war.
I opened the box of love letters that my parents wrote each other during and towards the end of World War II. Dad was a US military officer assigned to interrogate Nazi prisoners of war in Germany. Mom had gone back to her parents in Bermuda to have her baby. Dad didn’t get to see my older brother Joe until he was about one year old. In his seventies, Dad called his letters “just so much love-sick whining”.But I take heart that in one of the ugliest times in history, love prevailed as did faith in a better future.
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently told Congress the following about hate groups: “A majority of the racially motivated violent extremist domestic terrorism is at the hands of white supremacists.”
Hate crimes increased by nearly 20% in 2017, according to the latest FBI data. The actual numbers are likely larger because many hate crimes go unreported or are misclassified for various reasons.
Another study on hate crimes among 30 big cities nationwide, by The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, states the following: “Hate crimes rose 9 percent in major U.S. cities in 2018, for a fifth consecutive increase, to decade highs, as cities with increases outnumbered those with declines two to one. In contrast, crime overall in major cities has declined in both of the last two years.”
“… You can call it fate or call it destiny. Sometimes it seems like a mystery. Timing is everything!” ~ Garrett Hedlund
Fate? …Destiny? … I cannot explain it.
You see, someone recently sent me a quick read on courageous acts by courageous people. “So, are you trying to tell me something?” I thought to myself while putting the piece aside. Now by coincidence – or destiny? – I remembered that Deborah Levine and Marc Brennan are about to release their long-awaited book, “When Hate Groups March Down Main Street.”
All that said, days later I received the following story from “Mariah,” that provided an opportunity for me to pull all these pieces together:
As a favorite target of online hate groups, I sat spellbound with various movers and shakers of Chattanooga’s Jewish community as we listened to Jonathan Vick, Assistant Director of the Cyber Safety Center of the Anti-Defamation League. Founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” ADL’s tag line is “Imagine a World Without Hate®.” ADL began reporting on digital hate groups in 1985, exposing and monitoring groups such as StormFront created by KKK leader, Don Black. StormFront was popular with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, bigots, and anti-Semites. In recent years, StormFront has moderated its language somewhat to appear more mainstream. It’s membership has grown to almost 300,000 despite reports documenting one hundred homicides committed by StormFront members (Southern Poverty Law Center). Not surprisingly, I see very little difference between hate groups and terrorists.
This essay is written to address how we have devolved into a form of idolatry through the proliferation and use of symbols. Symbols are used to evoke a set of behavioral expectations to which we are beholden to subscribe if we are to be deemed acceptable by others. Symbols are all too often the proxies used to substitute for meaningful interaction and relationship. They are designed to reduce fear and risk, but they often mitigate against the courage necessary to relate meaningfully to each other.
For thousands of years, we have lived our lives largely in response to symbols- religious, political, social, natural- to the point today that we substitute symbols for relationship substance. We think because someone wears a cross he must be a Christian or a hijab she must be a Muslim, or emblazon their clothing with the American flag they must be a patriot. Symbols govern our expectations of what to anticipate in the behavior of others but this can be confusing, and often misleading.
On a balmy recent Sunday afternoon, the KKK visited Douglasville, Georgia. Throngs of us decided to pay a visit to our visitors. Many gathered along the road, some with their families and lounge chairs as if they were about to watch a Christmas parade. Some brought Bibles, others protest placards bearing words unprintable in this space. As expected the police turnout was large as was the media.
You see, the KKK came to protest the sentences of a local man and woman who received long prison terms for yelling racial slurs and pointing guns at participants at a 10 year-old’s black kid’s birthday party.