ADL Continues Fighting Hatred as Incidents Grow in Number
2017 has been a challenging year. The racist rally in Charlottesville, the Las Vegas shooting, white supremacist groups recruiting on college campuses and online, bomb threats on Jewish institutions across the country, documented increases in anti-Semitism and bias incidents, and a growing rancor between different political sides have all contributed to an unsettled national sentiment.
For every heartbreaking event our communities have sustained, ADL has responded thoughtfully and quickly, showing that the organization is well prepared to act and assist when the unimaginable happens.
This year alone, ADL has maintained a national presence in the news. In March, at SXSW Interactive in Austin, CEO Jonathan Greenblatt launched ADL’s Center on Cyberhate, Technology and Society, located in Silicon Valley. The center’s mission is to pioneer new strategies in the fight against online abuse, and in combating hate on the public and private web.
In his announcement, Greenblatt said, “Now more than ever, as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other hatreds have exploded online, it’s critical that we are bringing best-in-class technology and resources to this fight.” He added that the center’s work “is a natural extension of the cyber hate work ADL has been doing for decades.”
In October, the center announced a new partnership between ADL and Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to come up with strategies to combat online hate.
In August, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and ADL announced a new joint plan to fight extremism and bigotry and to promote justice and equality in response to the disturbing hate and violence seen in Charlottesville, Virginia. More than 300 mayors from across the country pledged to implement the plan.
“Terrorism by white supremacists, like what took place in Charlottesville, is a clear and present danger to America’s cities,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “Mayors are eager to join with the Anti-Defamation League to fight hate, and I’m honored that Mayor Landrieu asked me to help lead a coordinated campaign across this country to promote the Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry.”
Later that month, University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves announced the decision to remove and relocate several confederate monuments from UT’s campus.
A statement issued by Rachel Bresner, ADL Jean and Jerry Moore Southwest Civil Rights Counsel, read, “Following last week’s rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the violence and hatred on display, President Fenves’ efforts and decision to remove and relocate the monuments demonstrate a commitment to unifying the students and campus community.”
Locally, ADL filed a brief that supported several Texas cities’ challenge to Senate Bill 4, which would require local police to question legally detained or arrested individuals, as well as victims and witnesses, about their immigration status, and would punish officials who refuse to comply with federal immigration law. The brief was prepared by Holt M. Lackey, an ADL Austin board member.
In September, ADL Austin and Shalom Austin partnered to host a security training that focused on protecting local Austin synagogues during the busy High Holidays.
“With the rise in anti-Semitic incidents this year, as well as the more recent displays of blatant white supremacy in Charlottesville, it is imperative that our communities take a proactive approach to their security plans and procedures,” said ADL Austin Regional Director Renee Lafair.
Also in September, ADL and the Mexican Foreign Ministry signed an agreement that will create a framework across the United States to provide assistance to people of Mexican heritage who are victims of discrimination, bigotry, bullying and hate crimes. The partnership is already underway.
To date, ADL has delivered trainings to more than 150 community affairs officers at Mexican consulates, and has trained the staff of the Mexican consulates in six cities. ADL Austin looks forward to participating in this partnership.
Most recently, ADL has rolled out the new “Think. Plan. Act.” initiative to help students respond to anti-Semitic incidents and stand up to anti-Israel bias on college campuses. UT Austin already participates in ADL’s Words to Action program, and this new initiative will help to broaden ADL’s ability to help Texas students.
This month, an exciting new partnership was launched with professional athletes and sports leaders to promote positive social change and combat hate, bullying and discrimination in society. The ADL Sports Leadership Council will work directly with key leaders in the sports world, including professional athletes, team owners and other industry leaders to increase the sports community’s efforts to build bridges of understanding, unity and respect. The initial members of the council include Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who will chair the council, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sports icon Billie Jean King and NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.
Although 2017 has been a disheartening year, the incidents of hate and bigotry are eclipsed by ADL’s commitment to fight for justice and fair treatment for all. This Thanksgiving, ADL leaders hope our community feels comforted by the knowledge that ADL Austin will continue to protect our community through local initiatives and national ADL resources. ADL has many partners and supporters, and its leaders are grateful to be part of an accepting, diverse community. ■