The Scarlet

A Week of Terror: Anti-Semitism and Hate-Crimes Resurge in Many Forms

Sayoc was previously arrested in 2015 for retail theft. Photo via Wikimedia Commons through Creative Commons license.

Sayoc was previously arrested in 2015 for retail theft. Photo via Wikimedia Commons through Creative Commons license.

Maral Askari Sirchi, Scarlet Staff

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In what might be one of the most violent 72 hours in recent American history, we get to see the horrific face of xenophobic hate and what it is capable of doing. As the midterm elections draw near, a nation in mourning comes face to face with what has been growing as a byproduct of encouraging violent rhetoric in the social and political scene.  

On Oct. 22, suspicious packages containing what appeared to be pipe bombs arrived at the doorsteps of prominent Democrats including Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Rep. Maxine Waters, and former CIA director John Brennan. While all of the victims happen to be Trump’s opponents and political foes, the conservative party, including the President, accused the Democrats of having staged the act in order to shift the public thought about Republicans.

The narrative changed when police arrested Cesar Sayoc, 56, a staunch Trump supporter who had targeted the victims in the president’s name. Sayoc was revealed to have praised white supremacy and, despite claiming Native American heritage (that the Seminole Tribe has denied), had expressed his nostalgia for “Hitler days.”.  

A shooting at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky on Wednesday initially received little coverage as two people dying in a public shooting seems hardly surprising these days. Later on, it was revealed by a witness that Gregory Alan Bush, who shot a black man in the back of the head and then walked out to shoot a black woman, uttered “whites don’t kill whites” as he passed by. It was discovered subsequently that Bush had tried breaking into a predominantly black church minutes before.Though no official motives have been reported as of Saturday, it is becoming clear that the act was a hate crime.  

The most violent manifestation of white American hate in the past week took place on Saturday when an anti-semite named Robert Bowers entered a Pittsburgh synagogue and shot and killed at least 11 people after shouting “All Jews must die!” It seems that Bowers’ hate, anxiety, xenophobia, and anger had found a community to fester in, as his social media activity on a platform called Gab reveals the horrifying background of his white supremacist ideologies. The platform, which has been a hub for white extremists and Neo Nazis in the name of freedom of speech, reveals that Bowers’ anger had been fueled by conspiracy theories that connected Jews to aiding immigrants entering the US to do violence.  

These three incidents show how horrifyingly powerful a hate-filled individual can be.  

President Trump told reporters on Saturday that the events are “a terrible, terrible thing,” while also insisting that the death toll would have been much lower if the synagogue had an “armed guard inside.” Four of the six people wounded in the attack were police officers, all armed. ‘Rabbis with rifles’ seems to be president’s answer to hate crimes and gun violence.

In his article for the New York Times, Rabbi David Wolpe aptly points out that, in our current political and social discourse, making generalizations about individuals and groups brings about dangerous catastrophes. Saying that Mexicans are rapists or Muslims are terrorists or Jews are communists strips individuals of their identities and aims to relocate blame onto groups rather than the institutions that neglect the issues at large.

In fact, such actions have become so common that the public seems to have become desensitized to them. The scope of the current events in merely 72 hours is more than alarming, yet so ordinary that the Kroger shooting initially did not even make the headlines. President Trump even joked about having a “bad hair day” hours after the Pittsburgh’s synagogue shooting, and complained about having to do “a very unfortunate news conference”.  

Ultimately, as long as the answer to violence is violence, powerful and privileged individuals will continue to have platforms at their disposal to abuse and “other” immigrants, people of color, and other minority groups. We will continue to fail to recognize the dangerous culture of hatred that has been growing and the violence that follows it. When lives become expendable and violence is acceptable and applauded, we forget that when spilled, all blood is scarlet.  


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A Week of Terror: Anti-Semitism and Hate-Crimes Resurge in Many Forms