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Two Responses to Rising Anti-Semitism

When the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect comes for you, you’re not living your life correctly.

That’s the only possible conclusion for the current state of discourse between the Trump administration and the millions of voters who have become deeply alarmed at the clear rise in anti-Semitic threats and attacks that have occurred since the president took office.

Jewish community centers across the country have been bombarded with what appears to be coordinated attacks, phoned-in bomb threats that have forced widespread evacuations, frightening children and adults. In total, the national JCC has logged calls to 53 JCCs in 26 states in the last two months. Until yesterday, there was little hope of comfort or acknowledgment from the highest office in the land, a deafening silence which had only been broken when the president verbally harangued a Jewish reporter for asking about his plan to address the hate.

Then yesterday, the White House press office issued this statement, in response to NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander:

“Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”

The response from Jewish groups was swift and clear: This is not enough. “We look to our political leaders at all levels to speak out against such threats directed against Jewish institutions, to make it clear that such actions are unacceptable, and to pledge that they will work with law enforcement officials to ensure that those responsible will be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law,” National Anti-Defamation League Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

But Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, went further. In a searing statement published late yesterday, he said: “The President’s sudden acknowledgement of Anti-Semitism is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration,” it begins. “Make no mistake: The Anti-Semitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we’ve ever seen coming from any Administration.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s rejoinder from behind his bully podium made things worse. “I wish that they [the Anne Frank Center] had praised the President for his leadership in this area. And I think hopefully as time continues to go by, they will recognize his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans.”

You can review the resulting Twitter fight that took place between a non-profit devoted to tolerance and a representative of the greatest office in the land on your next coffee break. Much of it was in ALL CAPS, and none of it was praise.

Instead, let’s praise a different response. After nearly 200 headstones were damaged or toppled in the Jewish Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in a St. Louis, Missouri suburb, a campaign organized by two Muslim Americans, Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Tarek El-Messidi of CelebrateMercy, extended condolences and raised money for repairs. At raceAhead press time, more than 2,500 supporters have raised more than $70,000, nearly three times their original target.

“Less than 4 hours and we already met our goal,” Sansour wrote on Facebook. “We hope this campaign brought some healing for the Jewish families who have loved ones laid to rest at the St. Louis cemetery.”

It’s always inspiring when ordinary people who are sometimes seen as adversaries band together to help right a clear wrong. But when people with real position power miss an opportunity to disavow terrible and illegal behavior, the silence is more than deafening; it fuels and enables the worst in others. If you see something, say something.

On Point

Uber’s “women problem” is widespread in Silicon ValleyFormer Uber engineer Susan Fowler’s blog post has gotten the attention of more than just her former boss, Travis Kalanick. Leaders and managers throughout Silicon Valley are meeting with diversity consultants, preparing to deal with the ripple effect of Fowler’s claims. USA Today’s Jessica Guynn breaks down the situation in a must-read piece. Women who work throughout tech say they routinely deal with sexism and harassment on the job. “For all of its bravado about changing the world, the tech industry is very much a man’s world, lagging behind other industries in its representation of and treatment of women.” Six out of 10 women working in the Valley experience unwanted sexual advances, according to a survey released last year. Most came from a supervisor.USA Today

A new app tracks sexism; a new site cares about how people experience tech
Techish has a review of a new app called ‘Whistle,’ which aims to give anyone the ability to quickly and anonymously file a “report” of an incident of sexism occuring either online, in the media, or in real life. Reports are organized by category –  discrimination, double standards, objectification, etc – and are aggregated into a stream by location. The app’s reporting prompts also seem to help people understand the contours of sexism more easily. Techish is a site created by Jennifer Jolly, a former tech journalist, and is designed to help people get more out of the tech they use. It’s new, but it’s already proving to have a sharp, inclusive eye out for things that matter to the non-bro tech user.

The advertising boycott of ‘Breitbart News’ appears to be growing
Breitbart News, the often controversial “conservative” news site that gave the now departed Milo Yiannopoulos a huge megaphone, is beginning to lose advertisers, according to some reports. A leaked memo from the global advertising firm Omnicom reveals that many of the firm’s clients are asking that their ads not appear on the Breitbart site. A grassroots campaign called “Sleeping Giants” which asked Twitter users to shame large brands into not working with Breitbart was cited in the memo as one reason why. Omnicom also drew an interesting distinction: While the content on the site “is pretty unpalatable for most, it isn’t illegal or prohibited by most exchanges,” such as Google’s display ad network.

Georgetown is helping mid-life professionals master diversity
Georgetown’s Executive Certificate in Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management, is a six-month, masters level course that is helping established professionals fine tune their already robust skills to make them better able to transform both their careers and their workplaces. The curriculum offers a unique combination of personal self-assessment and diversity theory, leading to work with a real-world client in need of actionable advice. (This year’s cohort helped the American Red Cross course correct after they published a poster with unfortunate racial overtones.) “The primary focus is on using yourself as a tool. It has completely changed the way that I do my job at the Department of Energy,” said one student.

How public schools maintain their A ratings by “hiding” certain kids in sub-par, for-profit charter schools
ProPublica has published an in-depth look at school systems that artificially boost their  academic ratings by sending kids, at the slightest provocation, to charter schools that are little more than holding pens, often in dangerous neighborhoods. Typically the cast-offs are black and brown students. At one school district in Orlando, ProPublica found a pattern that is repeating around the country. “The departures expose a practice in which officials in the nation’s tenth-largest school district have for years quietly funneled thousands of disadvantaged students — some say against their wishes — into alternative charter schools that allow them to disappear without counting as dropouts.”

The Woke Leader

bell hooks on feminism today: “Patriarchy has no gender”
Yes, Trump’s victory was a setback for feminism, says author, activist and educator bell hooks. “So many patriarchal men, especially white men, really felt like feminism had taken something from them,” she says in an interview in Bust. Clinton’s defeat should be seen as an indication of a society which has become comfortable hating and fearing powerful women, and that should surprise nobody, she says. “Patriarchy has not been deeply challenged enough and changed,” she writes. “The sexism is so deeply, deeply embedded. If you think about public discourses on race in this past year, where are the big public discourses on feminism? They don’t exist.”

How a “genuine confidence that you belong” leads to wealth advantage for white families in the U.S.
John Rice, the CEO of nonprofit Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and a former member of Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, has a must-read opinion piece that defines the emotional underpinnings of the depressing wealth gap that exists between black and white families in this country. White people inherit something more valuable than money, he says. “They grow up never questioning whether they belong in the educational institutions, careers, and networks that are the breeding grounds for comfortable lives and wealth creation.” What still needs to be discussed, however, is the violent backlash that occurs when some members of white society lose that bedrock confidence.

The racial politics of time and history
“If time had a race, it would be white,” begins Brittney Cooper, the beloved cultural theorist and commentator. “White people own time.” In this just-posted video of her 2016 TEDWomen talk, Cooper addresses the way we dismiss time as a factor in our inability to come to an understanding of our history of white dominance. Just as pundits declared the U.S. a post-racial society, a spate of race-based discontent violently reasserted itself on our cultural landscape, surprising many people. “Time has a history, and so do black people,” she said. “As though [time] doesn’t have a political history of being bound up with the plunder of indigenous lands, the genocide of indigenous people, the stealing of Africans from their homeland.” Turns out, a philosophical decision to remove Africa from the very notion of time and history, led to a justification of race-based violence that exists today. A fascinating analysis.
TED Women


At this point we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the World.
—Georg Hegel