Each of us should be asking our leaders to do more to keep all Americans safe and free from threats based on their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
As Seattleites returned to work after the Thanksgiving holiday, a West Seattle woman awoke to find the word “Jew” spray painted on her home.
If the recent tragic mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue is a sharp reminder that hate that still lurks in our country, the incident in West Seattle shows that we’re not immune here at home.
Newly released data from the FBI confirms this. Law enforcement agencies in Washington state reported 613 total hate-motivated crimes to the FBI in 2017, including a 100 percent increase in reported hate crimes in Seattle. Most in Seattle were motivated by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion.
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Nationally, there was a 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes, the largest increase since 9/11, with 60 percent of these crimes directed at Jews or Jewish institutions.
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Among the 18 percent increase in race-based crimes, the perpetrators didn’t discriminate, with a significant uptick across a diverse range of ethnicities that make up the United States, including African Americans, Arab Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.
In times like these, each of us should be asking our national political leaders to do more to keep all Americans safe and free from threats based on their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
But even more so, each of us should be asking what we can do as individuals, citizens and leaders in our own right. As a nation of the people and for the people, it is our responsibility to create the change we want to see happen.
We are our best community. Each of us — faith leaders, local law enforcement and everyday citizens — can help build bridges and strengthen the ties that connect the diversity of our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our nation. In doing so, we’ll create a deterrent to hate that’s based on tolerance, awareness and kindness.
Local action can have widespread impact. In September, the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act was signed into Federal law. This measure, which expands federal hate-crimes laws to include threatening or defacing religious institutions, was initiated after a bomb threat at Mercer Island’s Stroum Jewish Community Center.
The time to act is now. On the heels of critical elections around the country, newly elected leaders are motivated to represent you, their constituents, in making our nation stronger, safer and better.
Seattle has one of the best hate-crimes-response departments in the country, and the increase in reporting may indicate that the Seattle Police Department is prioritizing these crimes and building better trust with diverse communities than ever before. While there’s complexity in any data, it remains clear that we have more work to do.
On Oct. 27 in Pittsburgh, we witnessed the deadliest anti-Semitic hate crime in American history. Over the past few years, according to both the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League, our country has experienced a significant increase in violent acts directed toward different races, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. Here, a West Seattle woman had the word “Jew” spray painted on her garage.
The Anti-Defamation League, along with other organizations, is calling on state and federal officials to improve how they track and prevent hate crimes across the county.
But it’s up to each of us to say enough. Each of us can do more to protect our neighbors. We’ve seen how one local action on Mercer Island led to new national laws. We’ve see one woman in West Seattle speak up and use her voice for good. Imagine what could happen if each of us made eliminating hate a priority.