The stench of anti-Semitism recently rising at the John A. Wilson Building, the city’s headquarters, has prompted D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) to announce that she and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) will sponsor activities highlighting the historic relationship between Jews and African Americans in the civil rights struggle. Their program will include a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Undoubtedly, many people, shocked and disgusted by the anti-Semitic slurs of Nation of Islam representative Abdul Khadir Muhammad at the Wilson Building event, will accept the Nadeau-Bowser initiative as a good response. They may be also satisfied that displays of black and Jewish unity are a sufficient antidote to the cringeworthy, loopy conspiracy theory advanced by council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) — that a Jewish banking dynasty controls the federal government, the World Bank and the weather. White later apologized.
However, in a city that claims to be, in the words of LaToya Foster, a spokeswoman for Bowser, “an inclusive and progressive place,” a black and Jewish unity proposal is simply not good enough. Its remedies for hate in the District are both limited in scope and exclusionary.
To be sure, the evil of anti-Semitism is real and has a global dimension. I saw it in my visit to the Dachau concentration camp in 1968. It stared me in the face at the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, where for hundreds of years coffins were buried stacked one on top of the other because the government wouldn’t allow expansion of the Jewish ghetto. The Holocaust Museum, which I first visited as a member of The Post’s editorial board before its opening 25 years ago, tells the story in gut-wrenching detail.
But hate has many faces in our nation’s capital.
This is a city where people can get attacked or viciously threatened just because of who they are.
Just ask the two men who were assaulted a couple of weeks ago by three men yelling homophobic slurs. One was knocked unconscious; the other got a broken nose.
A rare, unprovoked experience?
Not if you believe what D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham told WTOP radio after that assault on U Street. “There has been increases in hate crimes in the city from ’15 to ’16 and ’16 to ’17,” Newsham said.
The city reported 66 hate crimes in 2015 and 107 in 2016. The numbers for 2017 haven’t been updated yet. But the U Street attack suggests that that year, and 2018, will continue the dangerous and disgraceful trend.
Any organized D.C. government response to hate crimes must include the LBGT community, which knows the horror firsthand.
Dare the city launch a campaign against hate without acknowledging last year’s racially charged incident at American University? At three campus locations, bananas strung in the shape of nooses were hung up and marked with “AKA,” the initials of the predominantly African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.
That the university’s student government president on that day was Taylor Dumpson — the first black woman to hold that position — is not of little moment. The Daily Stormer neo-Nazi website posted a story about the bananas incident and Dumpson, including her picture, bringing down on her a barrage of racist and hateful messages, according to a lawsuit she filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Dumpson knows what it’s like to fear for your safety in Washington.
So do Howard University students who breathed a sigh of relief upon learning that John Edgar Rust, of Alexandria, was arrested last October on charges that two years earlier he threatened online to kill African American students at the school. They were also pleased to learn that Rust, a convicted sex offender as well, pleaded guilty in March to posting those racist threats.
Those Howard students also know what it’s like to live in fear because of who you are.
The mayor needs to think through her response to the ugliness that mars our city.
Hatred and intolerance are contrary to the values that we, as a city, espouse. Leaders across the board need to drive home the point that the District will not put up with discrimination, intimidation or violence targeted against people of this city, whether gay or straight, black, white, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or any group.
Anything less by our public leaders reflects a lack of dedication to the rights we hold dear.
Expand the tent.
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