By John L. Micek
If you ever needed a reminder that we can't turn a blind eye to hate, new data from the Anti-Defamation League should more than do the trick.
White supremacist propaganda hit an all-time high across the country in 2022, even as antisemitic propaganda more than doubled from the year before.
The civil rights group tallied 6,751 incidents in 2022, up from the 4,876 incidents nationwide in 2021. That's a 38% year-over-year increase nationwide, according to the ADL.
So you'd think that there'd be pretty widespread agreement that this kind of stuff is repugnant and has no place in a civil society, right? Tell that to those who think the Black Lives Matter movement is racist and a hate group.
In reality, the decade-old movement has been spectacularly successful, as the Brookings Institution notes, at reframing out national conversation around matters of racial equity and justice. And, as you might imagine, that makes it an easy target for those with a vested interest in preserving the status quo.
Like who, you might ask?
Well, in this case, the fish rots from the head.
In July 2020, former President Donald Trump called the movement "a symbol of hate," according to CNN, even as he opposed the renaming of military installations that bore the names of Confederate soldiers (which actually were monuments to racism), and slammed a plan at the time to paint the words "Black Lives Matter" in front of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. By then, the movement's name had already been painted on a street near the White House.
"Maybe our GREAT Police, who have been neutralized and scorned by a mayor who hates & disrespects them, won't let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York's greatest street. Spend this money fighting crime instead!" raged Trump, who had notably referred to white nationalists as "very fine people."
The anti-BLM cudgel was picked up by the Trump-friendly right-wing media, as The Guardian's Nesrine Malik wrote in 2020, taking a movement that "depicted solidarity with the victims of racial injustice," and cementing it into a "threat."
"Black Lives Matter is now dragged into controversies it has nothing to do with, shoehorned into debates it never started, blamed for moves it never demanded," Malik wrote at the height of the civil rights protests that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, but have continued to find voice in fights over critical race theory, book bans, and other skirmishes over 'wokeism,' some three years later.
"Our collective appetite to justify criticizing Black organizations speaks to how deeply embedded anti-Blackness is within the cultural pallet of the United States," Brookings scholar Rashawn Ray wrote last October in his evaluation of Black Lives Matters' effectiveness as a movement.
Through that prism, then, the resurgence of antisemitism isn't that much of a surprise. Silence in the face of one form of hate simply legitimizes silence in the face of other forms of hate.
"Silence and inaction have helped mainstream [antisemitism]. The majority of Americans who embrace tolerance and reject hate deserve a voice as well, and it is time to give them one," Jack Rosen, of the American Jewish Congress, wrote in the pages of the New York Daily News, last December.
Rosen also astutely noted that the "taboo on Jew-hating statements and actions has steadily eroded, as the memory of the Holocaust has begun to fade."
And that's the key: As the survivors of both the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement ever more swiftly transition from living memory to the history books, it's on those of us who remain to stand even more strongly and steadfastly against those who'd use cheap conflation and lazy whataboutism to try to turn back the clock on years of hard-won progress.
The ADL data, as profoundly disturbing as it is, also is a reminder that retreat is never an option. And that it's going to take all of us standing together to defeat hate.
An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.