Sunday, January 13, 2019

White Fragility Decoded

How our defensiveness undermines our racism efforts
Rev. Kit Ketcham, PUUF, Jan. 13, 2019

During these last months of my being your minister, I’ve discovered in myself a need to speak about some of the most important issues of our current world situation.  I’ve spoken with you about the post-election trauma syndrome that has affected us for the past two years, the growth of hate rhetoric and how antisemitism has burgeoned and has infected American culture with even more virulent forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the anger directed toward “the Other”, the persons who are different, who stand out for some perceived characteristic, be it religion, skin color, gender, disability, sexual orientation, whatever the hater has learned to fear, to hate, to condemn, to avoid, to oppress.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately in preparation for writing this message:  “Centering”---a book of essays by UUs of color about Antiracism specifically written for UU ministers; “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo;  and “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.  And I sat down for a conversation with a personal friend of mine, to learn about his experience as a man of color in almost totally lily-white Clatsop County.

This journey into up-to-date writings about racism and white supremacy has made me think hard about my attitudes toward race and whiteness, where my attitudes were shaped, and how they affect me today.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.

I don’t remember noticing people of color in my earliest years.  There may have been an elderly black man in my dad’s Portland congregation, but I don’t remember for sure.

When we moved to eastern Oregon though, I went to school for eight years with Cayuse and Umatilla Native students and only thought of them as exotic---and somehow just kids 
at the same time.

Exotic because of their tribal connections, the finery the girls wore in local festivals, especially the Pendleton RoundUp, and the amazing athletic skills of the boys whose parochial high school competed with our high school in various sports.  I knew they weren’t white, exactly, but I didn’t think of Natives as being “other”.  They were just my friends Belva and Joyce Hoptowit and the high school basketball stars, Peter and Paul Quaempts, pretty ordinary except for the special attributes of being Native.

It wasn’t till years later that I began to wonder what it must have meant to these friends to be small islands of color in a slightly larger pond of white students.  I once googled the names of these friends I had known fairly well and discovered that several of them had not lived past middle age; no cause of death given, but I had learned by then that alcoholism and chronic illnesses had plagued Native tribes for centuries.

It was at about this time that I learned, also, that the famed Whitman Mission National Historic site near Walla Walla had not had its true story widely told.  This was the place where the Native people came to believe that poisoned medicines had killed many of the native peoples who had sought help from the Whitman missionaries, inciting the Cayuse people to rise up and murder their providers.

The version of the story told to schoolkids was varnished to place most blame upon the ungrateful and ignorant Cayuse people who killed the blameless Protestant missionaries in cold blood, but there are indications that disease swept the Native camps, disease brought in by white settlers and others, not poisoned medicines.

At Linfield College, I found several new friends of African, African-American, and Asian heritage.  Though there were only a few on campus, those few were well-known and accepted, as far as I remember.

In my senior year, I roomed with a black girl named Millie.  Millie and another girl, Judy, had planned to room together, but Judy’s parents put the kibosh on that plan  because of Millie’s black skin and the dean of women asked me to be Millie’s roomie, which I was glad to do.  I could not imagine my parents telling me I shouldn’t room with a black girl.

I had not previously realized that racism was alive and well in some Linfield parents.  I was shocked and was glad to accept Millie as my roommate, which turned out to be a good situation for both of us, from my point of view.  But the shame of being shunned by her friend’s parents seemed to linger in Millie and she never seemed to be truly comfortable with our situation.

As an aside, decades after graduation, I had a chance to catch up with a black friend who had sung with our Linfield a cappella choir, Archie Smith, who had gone to seminary after his graduation, gotten his Ph D in religious studies and came to my seminary, Iliff, in Denver, to teach a summer course. 

 In a conversation with him during that summer, I learned that Archie and Millie and Rick and Bernie and Emmons and all the black students I knew had been afraid to walk downtown in McMinnville because of the harassment on the street and by cars passing by.  Mounting evidence of my ignorance about racism became a cause for me. (McMinnville still harbors its racist component, if you’ve recently read the newspapers.)

My first job out of college was with welfare clients in Klickitat and Skamania counties in the Columbia River Gorge where I learned first hand of the poverty Native clients endured.

My second job was as a home missionary at the Denver Christian Center, offering after-school and evening programs for kids of all ages and assistance for their parents, almost all black and Hispanic.  My third experience was as a student teacher in a Denver junior high during April of 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and the city erupted.

Ironically, my first job as a Spanish teacher was in the lily-white junior high school in Evergreen, Colorado, a ritzy but rustic town in the Front Range of Colorado, a wealthy suburb of Denver.

From that point on, my career moves landed me in white school after white school---all junior highs, if that gets me any points for diversity and challenge.  And my UU congregation, in Golden, CO was about as white as they come, with maybe one black family and a few multi-racial kids who had been adopted by white families or the product of one white and one black parent.

It wasn’t until seminary, 25 years later, that my environment changed and I was able to connect with many fellow students of color.  I began to be aware of the insidious system which prevented many, perhaps most, people of color from achieving the same success as their white peers.

Mainline denominations hesitated to bring a black or Hispanic or Asian or Native minister into their leadership positions.  Even Unitarian Universalists have struggled to overcome the systemic conditions which keep qualified candidates of color  from achieving at the same levels as their peers, from being selected for ministerial or other leadership positions because search committees are afraid of creating conflict in their congregations or agencies, choosing white candidates (and often male) instead of a candidate of color, particularly women of color.  Search committee members, consider this in your search.

Let’s look at some of the terminology of racism, the terms that are frequently reported in our news media:  White supremacy, white superiority, white fragility, all have separate meanings, though the constant factor is whiteness.  I hope to flesh out their meanings in such a way to help us see what each of them means in terms of our own lives.

Before I talk about these terms, I’d like to ask you to think about your own experiences with people of color. (Nod or otherwise indicate your response, if you wish.) Did you have black or brown or Asian friends when you were a kid growing up?  How much contact with people of color have you generally had in your life?  Have you had conversations with these folks about race and racial differences?  In conversations about race, do you ever find yourself being somewhat defensive?

Two terms I’m using today---white supremacy and white superiority---are not synonyms, not similar words for the same concept.  White supremacy means that systems and practices and policies are generally based on the preferences of the white majority or power group.   In other words, white preferences are supreme because they outnumber others’ preferences.

This means that minority folks are widely prevented or discouraged, either actively or passively, from having the same benefits that white folks have, simply from the difference in numbers.  This is what we know as systemic racism and it does NOT mean that white people are bad, but that we are mostly unaware of the unspoken privilege we have and the sheer weight of the difference in numbers.

White superiority is the attitude of many individuals and groups that minority folks are second class citizens and do not deserve the same benefits as majority folks.  This group tends to harbor neo-Nazis and white nationalists.  This is what we know as racial bigotry and it too can be passive or active.

White fragility is the discomfort that many, perhaps most, of us white folks experience when challenged to talk about racism and which makes it difficult for us to listen deeply to the experiences of our friends of color.  Our friends of color may find it difficult to talk to us about their experience of racism if we are uncomfortable listening.

So often listening to someone else’s opinion or experience causes us to feel as though our opinion or experience is being criticized.  And in a situation where we are listening to someone whose experience is different from ours because of the racial differences between us, we are apt to feel defensive and want to minimize the situation to make ourselves feel less uncomfortable.

Robin DiAngelo recounts this experience when she was leading a workshop about white fragility:
I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. 

A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see 40 employed people, all white. There are no people of color in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality, and his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my co- facilitator, the only person of color in the room. 

Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism. 

I’m guessing that most of us have seen and heard this kind of complaint from other white people.  Perhaps we’ve stepped in and tried to calm the person down.  Perhaps we’ve felt so bothered by the reaction we’re seeing that we tune out or leave the room.  Perhaps we silently agree to some extent.

There have been efforts to improve the playing field for people of color (and women) over the decades since the Civil Rights Movement.  One of the most controversial has been Affirmative Action which emerged from the Equal Opportunity Act.

Affirmative action policies often focus on employment and education. In institutions of higher education, affirmative action refers to admission policies that provide equal access to education for those groups that have been historically excluded or underrepresented, generally minorities.

But because we lack an understanding of the magnitude of the systemic racism in white society, we often react defensively if we feel we are going to lose out, that someone else, maybe someone we believe is not as qualified as we are, is going to receive something we feel we deserve.  We are pretty attached to our white privilege and it’s scary to think of losing any of it!

There are 3 levels to the negative feelings we may harbor that are relevant to our understanding of racism.  The lowest level Is prejudice.   Prejudice is not necessarily a bad thing.  We all have it.  It helps us sort out our values and make choices about our behaviors. We have both negative and positive prejudices.  We speak occasionally of being prejudiced in behalf of a person we like a great deal.  That’s a pretty normal feeling.

Negative prejudice is the feeling of distaste we may have for a person or a value or an item that we are uncomfortable with.  When we act on that negative prejudice, we are discriminating  which is the second level of negative feelings against the object of the prejudice. 

 Now it’s one thing to discriminate against intolerance or a food we don’t like, but it’s another to discriminate against a person for whom we have a negative prejudice.  In a successful society, we do not discriminate against persons we may not like but who are entitled to the same rights we have.

Outright racism (the 3rd level) is the end result of collective negative prejudice which is backed up by the power of legal authority and institutional control.  This power and control are so entrenched as to escape our own perception and cloud our self-image.

In other words, we can be blind to the systemic racism that excludes certain humans and denies them the advantages we have.  If we white people lived in a society that was dominated by another culture or racial group, we could experience the same exclusion and denial of advantages that belong to the dominant group.  We too could struggle to succeed in that milieu.

A very pointed Tweet by Jim Rossignol, a frequent contributor to memes that cut right to the heart of a matter: “I’m always fascinated by the line  ‘we don’t want to become minorities in our own country’.  Why not?  Are they treated badly or something?”

And from Francheska Ramsey, “Privilege does not mean you’re rich, a bad person, have had everything handed to you or have never had challenges or struggles.  Privilege just means there are some challenges and struggles you won’t experience because of who you are.”

So how might we as Unitarian Universalists improve our understanding of  and approach to the challenges of systemic racism and the white culture in which we live?

One of the most valuable things I experienced in my research for this sermon was the timeline of my life, in which I took a close look at how my own attitudes about race and “the Other” have developed.  I didn’t grow up in a bigoted environment and I had several experiences with people of color in early life, but I still was blind to the effects of hidden racism.

It took 25 years in white junior high schools, a long period of time in which I had almost no contact with any person of color, followed by immersion in an educational setting (seminary) where I was able to hear the first-person stories of new friends and colleagues, to open my eyes to what I had not seen before.

When we ask “What can we do?”, I would suggest that it might be useful to create a personal timeline of our own knowledge of and interaction with people of color.  As I created mine, I included all the memories I could come up with about my feelings from fear to joy---including the home environment I grew up in.  It helped me link my early experiences to the surprises and shocking learnings I had found, things I had not seen about myself and my life and our society.

I became aware that, though I had had several positive and joyful childhood  and early adulthood experiences with friends of color, by the end of my junior high school teaching and counseling career, I had lost contact with all my friends of color, rarely saw a peer or colleague of color, and had distanced myself from the conflicts over race that appeared in the news.

Now I’m making up for that lost time.  I am practicing carefully listening to people of color, as well as those others whose lives are different from mine.  It’s an education and a life-changing experience.  I wish it for you as well.

Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

BENEDICTION:  As David extinguishes our chalice, let us close with our benediction.
Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place.  Let us go in peace, remembering to listen to those who are different, to let go of our natural defensiveness, and to vow to observe the ways in which our culture fosters white supremacy and denies opportunity to our friends and neighbors who are not white.  May we resist and oppose those systems which are discriminatory and may we speak up when we hear and see unfair treatment.  Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Lessons from Hanukkah: dealing with antisemitism

And the rise of anti-Semitism in these times
Dec. 9, 2018, PUUF

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which this year extends from December 2  through tomorrow, Dec. 10, has come to be thought of by many as Jewish Christmas---which it definitely is not.  Hanukkah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, a holiday that just happens to fall during the Christian Advent season leading up to Christmas.

But there is a good story associated with Hanukkah, a story which is partly history, partly legend, and I am going to tell you that story. 

In the year 168, BCE, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and rededicated to the worship of the God Zeus.  The Jewish people, who had suffered under oppression for years, were enraged but afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals.  Their anger simmered for a year and then the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death.  He ordered all Jews to worship the Greek Gods.

This was such an affront that, in their anger and dismay, the Jewish resistance forces began to mobilize in a small village, Modiin, near Jerusalem, after Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the villagers and told them to bow down to an idol and to eat the flesh of a pig---both practices that are against Jewish religious law.

One Greek officer ordered High Priest Mattathias to comply with these demands, but Mattathias refused. Led by his oldest son Judah Maccabee, the rest of his sons and the villagers attacked the soldiers, killing all of them.         

Joined by other rebels, Mattathias and his family went into hiding in the mountains, where other Jews joined them to fight against the Greeks.  Eventually they succeeded in retaking their land from the Greeks.  These rebels became known as the Maccabees.

Once the Maccabees had regained control, they returned to the Temple in Jerusalem.  But their holy space, their religious home, had been defiled by the worship of foreign gods and by ritual sacrifice of forbidden species like swine.  Jewish troops began to prepare to purify the temple by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days, to celebrate the occasion of Hanukkah.

But to their dismay, they found that there was very little oil left in the Temple supplies, only one day’s worth.  Undeterred, they lit the menorah anyway and to their surprise, the small amount of oil lasted the full eight days. 

This is what Jews celebrate at this time of the year, when they light a special menorah known as a hanukkiyah every day for eight days.  One candle is lit on the first night, two on the second, and so on until all eight candles are lit.  A ninth candle, called the shammash, is used to light all the candles.  This is the story of Hanukkah, a story of repression, of resistance, and of renewal.

I decided to speak today about the lessons of Hanukkah because, in this era and with this oppressive government’s encouragement, the rising of anti-Semitic targeting and threats against Jews all over the globe is evident and alarming.  Every day, it seems, the newspapers reveal the latest scrawled swastikas, filthy words, and threats against Jewish people, the perpetrators often escaping undetected and unpunished.

Attacks against Jews have become almost commonplace, but they have also become more violent, more frightening, and more frequent over the past two years. 

Antisemitism has been around for a very long time.  The origin of the word Semite was once thought to have derived from the name of Shem, the oldest son of Noah, the guy with the famed ark which helped him and his family and a lot of animals survive the legendary, probably mythical, flood of Biblical antiquity.  However, scholars dispute this origin and point instead to the similarities between the languages spoken in antiquity by Hebrew and Aramaic peoples.

All those peoples who spoke a version of the same language--- Hebrews, Syrians, Babylonians, Arabs and Phoenicians---were considered by scholars to be Semites.  The word Semite designated only those peoples who have spoken one of these languages but over the years the meaning of the word has morphed into a way of singling out a cultural group, namely the Jews.  Antisemitism now has the singular meaning of “the hating of Jews”.

A poll conducted by CNN about the state of antisemitism in Europe revealed that, 74 years after the Holocaust ended, a third of the 7000 respondents to the poll said they knew only a little or nothing about the Holocaust at all.

The poll, which surveyed people from across Austria, France, Germany, Britain, Hungary, Poland, and Sweden, didn’t just discover ignorance, however.  It exposed bigotry.  And this on top of a wave of Holocaust denials by conspiracy theorists.

Quoting from a review of the poll by Bari Weiss of the NYT, “nearly a quarter of the respondents said that Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars.  More than a quarter believe that Jews have too much influence in business and finance.  Nearly twenty percent believe that most antisemitism is a response to the behavior of Jews.  Roughly a third say Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own goals, and just 54 percent say that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.”

European Jews have found that they must contend with a three-headed dragon:  physical fear of violent assault which leads many Jews to hide evidence of their religious identity; moral fear of reprisal for ideology, mainly by the far left which causes some Jews to downplay any sympathy for Israel; and political fear of resurgent fascism.
Now these three strains of hate are showing up on this side of the Atlantic.

Anti-Semitism is showing few signs of slowing down, prompting the Simon Wiesenthal Center to release a list of the "Top 10 Worst Global Anti-Semitic acts of 2017."   

Here are a few that have appeared in the news both here in the US and globally.  I’ve focused on those which were perpetrated by white supremacists, rather than religious zealots.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, hundreds of Klansmen, "white nationalists," and neo-Nazis took part in "Unite the Right" march. The August 17 event left scores of people injured and one counter-protester dead after being struck by a car driven by a neo-Nazi.

 Protestors took to the streets across major cities worldwide last year, boldly uttering anti-Semitic chants.  Demonstrators made it clear their grievances were against Jews as people.

Anti-Semitism has also seen an uptick at several prestigious North American schools, where Jewish students and other proponents of Israel have found themselves targets of intimidation:  at Rutgers, where a University professor claimed Jews control sex-trafficking, pornography, Wall Street, cancer, television and the US Federal Reserve.  And a UC Berkeley lecturer re-tweeted cartoons showing a Jew in mock Hassidic garb with the caption, "I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs and steal the land of the Palestinians."

During a Nov. 11 march to commemorate Poland's Independence Day, some participants waved banners reading "Europe Must Be White" and "Clean Blood." The center reports that one demonstrator said he came to "get the Jews out of power."      

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Oregon specifically, there are 11 hate groups, with four of them in Portland.  Portland State University, the U of Oregon, and a Lake Oswego high school have all had hate literature or graffiti occurrences, requiring strict censure by authorities---and police action. 

In all, 14 separate incidents of antisemitism were reported to police in Oregon during 2017 and 14 incidents of antisemitism were reported to police in Washington state, according to a national list compiled by the ADL. 

It’s been called history’s oldest hatred and it has shown itself to be remarkably adaptable, taking on variant forms to reflect the fears and anxieties of a changing world.  It stretches back to antiquity and medieval times.  

Religious scholars have found evidence to indicate that the ancient hostility towards Judaism and its adherents springs out of several characteristics which were unusual and frightening to their neighbors:  the exclusive nature of the monotheistic Jewish faith, the attitude that Jews were God’s chosen people, a refusal to intermarry, a Sabbath observance, and the practice of circumcision.  These customs and religious precepts were likely so different as to be unacceptable to the pre-Christian population, and early Christianity as well.

The clincher came, however, through the early theology of Christianity.  Sometime around the year 140 of the common era or AD, a Christian theologian was attempting to answer a question about the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, who (as you may have noticed yourself) have two different ways of interacting with their people, their followers.

The God of the Old Testament is a pretty gruff and pitiless guy in most of the stories, always displeased with his followers, with a few exceptions.  The God of the New Testament, as introduced by Jesus his son, is loving and forgiving, even to the point of sacrificing his own son Jesus in forgiveness.

Early Christian theologians had to explain how these two Gods were actually the same Being.  The theologian Tertullian in 144 AD in answering this very logical question presented the Jews as being especially wicked and deserving of God’s righteous anger.  He explained that Jewish behaviors and Jewish sins explained the contrast.  This was a first step in the development of antisemitism. 

This explanation shaped Christian attitudes toward Jews into the medieval period, leaving Jewish communities vulnerable to persecution, such as massacres in York (England) in 1190, to ethnic cleansings and expulsions (England in 1290, France in 1306, and Spain in 1492).

And then along came Martin Luther in 1543 and his denunciations of the Roman Church as the “Devil’s Synagogue” and Catholic orthodoxy as Jewish greed and materialism.  Two centuries later, hatred thrived on the invention of the printing press and the ability of early political pundits to condemn the revolutionaries of the time as Jew Brokers and Old Jewry.

Karl Marx, in the mid 1800’s, added to the perceived crimes of the Jews, accusing them (though he was Jewish himself) of using their financial skills to cheat and steal to attain power over the rest of society.

And what about today?  Antisemitism has adapted itself to generalized hatred of “the other”:  the gay and lesbian, the Black, the Latino, the Asian, the transgender woman and man, you name the marginalized group: all are subject to some form of discomfort, outright dislike, or violence. 

If you yourself have ever needed or wanted to hide some aspect of yourself that might make you vulnerable to negative words or deeds, you may have an inkling of what my friend Eve said to me: “Jews have always felt like they have a target on their backs.”  And anymore, it’s not just Jews---it’s any person or group who is perceived to be radically different.

And, because you are a normal human being who grew up in an environment of acceptance of differences or hostility toward differences, you have been affected by the virus of hate, for it’s hard to escape the realization that hate is present, whether it’s directed at you or someone else.

What is hate?  Erica Hayasaki, in a November essay in The New Republic says this:  Hate is a powerful emotion that lodges itself deep within a person’s psyche. Indeed, a growing body of social, psychological, and neurological research suggests that once racial biases and hateful ideologies embed themselves in a person’s brain, they can be difficult—if not impossible—to counteract.

This research suggests an uncomfortable reality: that ending racism isn’t something that can be achieved through a handful of counseling or therapy sessions, or anti-bias training. In addition to the efforts of organizations like Life After Hate, millions of dollars have been spent in recent years on high-profile anti-bias initiatives at companies including Starbucks, Facebook, and Google, as well as in police departments across the country. Yet there is little evidence that these efforts even work.

In her article, Hayasaki interviews two women about their experiences separating themselves from their racist friends and family members’ attitudes.  Shannon Brown, for example, grew up in a neighborhood in Fresno CA without any opportunity or need to associate with those people who were different---of other races or religions. 

Her family discouraged her from friendships with “those people” and as she became an adult, she was drawn into neo-Nazi circles by her friends and relatives who were actively against blacks, Jews, and other minorities.

She felt intrigued by the pageantry of Ku Klux Klan gatherings and other white superiority groups and participated with her husband in their activities, raising their children in that environment.

That life is now behind her. She left her husband, escaping with her children back to Fresno, where she found work and began to associate with clients and colleagues who were African-American. She has tried to atone for her earlier connections and behavior by speaking to groups at the LA Museum of Tolerance.

Last year, Brown officially joined Life After Hate, a nonprofit organization founded by former white supremacists that works to help people leave extremist groups and start new lives. Groups such as Life After Hate have received increasing attention since Donald Trump’s election. Modeled after similar organizations in Sweden and Germany, they aim to teach tolerance and support former white supremacists in a kind of recovery process.

“If you’re ready to leave hate and violence behind, we’re here to support you. No judgments, just help,” the Life After Hate web site declares. This involves breaking ties with hate group members, including loved ones, reintegrating into mainstream society, and trying to “unlearn” racism. Life After Hate received a $400,000 grant from the Obama administration to support its work—funding that the Trump administration stripped away in 2017.

Shannon Brown, for example, admits that there are still things that “trigger” her prejudices: gay people, black people who listen to loud rap music, multiracial families. Something might set her off, and “I just trigger into that indoctrinated kind of mindset,” Brown said, her brain calling forth a racial slur, even though she knows that such thoughts are wrong. “I might just see something like an interracial couple, and it’ll flip and then flip back real fast,” Brown said. “Sometimes I can control it, and sometimes it’s just on impulse.”

Additional research has turned up clear evidence of the negative effects on human health, both from the standpoint of the victim and the perpetrator.  Death rates from circulatory disease and cardiovascular events have skyrocketed in communities where both consciously and subconsciously held prejudice are present and expressed---either through overt hostile action or systems that oppress the victim. 

This relates to all bigotry, whether expressed or experienced by Jews, people of color, members of the Q community, and other marginalized groups.

As former Senator Alan Simpson said on Wednesday in his eulogy for his friend and colleague President George HW Bush, looking straight at Donald J. Trump sitting in the front row of guests: “As my mother always told me, hatred corrodes the container it is carried in.”

   So what is the answer to what has become a public health problem?  Author Ronald W. Pies along with the Anti-Defamation League recommends, in addition to education in schools,
   Enacting comprehensive hate crime laws in every state.
   Improving the federal response to hate crimes.
   Expanding training for university administrators, faculty, and staff.
   Promoting community resilience programming, aimed at understanding and countering extremist hate.
public health approach to problems such as smoking has shown demonstrable success; for example, anti-tobacco mass media campaigns were partly responsible for changing the American public’s mind about cigarette smoking. Similarly, a public health approach to bigotry, such as the measures recommended, will not eliminate hatred, but may at least mitigate the damage hatred can inflict upon society.
And I have my own thoughts, which come from my UU perspective.   I believe in education and I believe in public health initiatives which urge people toward more sustainable living.  But I return to the story of Hanukkah, from which we can take this message: it is a story of repression, of resistance, and of renewal.

For two years we have been in a cycle of repression by corrupt authorities.  We have resisted to the best of our ability.  And like the Maccabees, we are not going to let the repressors win.  We are going to resist until our peaceful (rather than violent) and massive protests succeed in removing the repressors from power (in which we are having some success).  Renewal will come in a strengthened democratic government, of the people, by the people, and for the people.  For we are not willing to vanish from the face of the earth. And we do not want to be damaged by the virus of hate.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has some ways we can promote tolerance and fight hate:

Speak up when you hear slurs.  Let people know that biased speech is unacceptable.

Cross social boundaries.  Find ways to interact with people who are different from you.

Encourage your local police force to identify bias-motivated criminal acts as hate crimes.

Complain to the media when they promote stereotypes.

Look inside yourself for hidden biases.  Be honest about it.

Google the Southern Poverty Law Center for more ideas.

Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

BENEDICTION:  Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place.  Let us go in peace, committed to peaceful resistance and looking forward to the day of renewal when the ideals of real democracy are strong again in our nation.  May we treat each other kindly and with generosity during this stressful time.  Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.