The Maror that Lasts Throughout the Year: The Bitterness of Ongoing Hate Crimes

March 27, 2015
The Department of Justice released an updated version of its Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual earlier this month, including new information on identifying hate crimes against Hindu Americans, Sikh Americans and Arab Americans. The FBI agreed to start tracking hate crimes against these groups in 2013, following a push by advocacy groups, including the RAC, for the FBI to expand the categories of biases it collected hate crime statistics for in the wake of the 2012 shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI. Hate crimes are a significant issue in the United States. The most recent report by the FBI finds that 5,928 hate crime incidents were reported in 2013. It is estimated that the number of actual hate crimes is significantly larger because of underreporting. In just the past couple of weeks, several anti-Semitic hate crimes have been in the news, including anti-Semitic graffiti at a school in Staten Island, swastikas spray-painted onto the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi at Vanderbilt University, and swastikas and racist slurs written in bathrooms and in a classroom at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. This is in addition to the many other bias-motivated hate crimes that have been in the news recently, including an anti-LGBT assault in Seattle. In his comments to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights’ 2012 hearing on "Hate Crimes and the Threat of Violent Domestic Extremism,” former RAC Director Rabbi David Saperstein explained that:
“We had no illusions that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act would end hate crimes. Yet the law was and remains an essential tool to combat these crimes based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity that degrade our nation. Those who commit these crimes do so fully intending to pull apart the too-often frayed threads of diversity that bind us together and make us strong. They seek to divide and conquer. They seek to tear us apart from within, pitting American against American, fomenting violence and civil discord. They are a betrayal of the promise of America and erode our national well-being.”
While the FBI’s new Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual won’t eradicate hate, it will help provide law enforcement with the proper tools to recognize and combat these crimes. Better data also provides a better foundation for addressing hate crimes on a larger scale and preventing them from occurring. In a week and a half, Jews across the world will gather to celebrate Passover. As we retell the story of the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt—an act that embodies the consequences of hatred, fear, and exploitation of another people—we must think about those in our society whose journey to liberation and redemption is not complete, whether as a result of hate crimes in their community or discriminatory laws in our country. Passover is a time to rededicate ourselves to combatting hatred in our community by standing up to bigoted comments and standing in solidarity to victims of hate in our community. As we work to combat hatred and violence in our community, consider incorporating one of our themed haggadot, or reading inserts into your Passover Seder, such as our inserts for the maggid/narration part of the seder, in order to highlight social justice issues of our time and inspire people at your Seder to take action to combat hate.

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