Don't Let 'White Supremacists' Win

by Dena Marks

This has been a difficult summer; a summer of assaults. The heat has assaulted our bodies, and hate crimes have assaulted our minds. It seems all summer long, we have been asking the question, "Why?"

Why would someone set fire to three Sacramento synagogues? Why would Benjamin Nathaniel Smith target blacks, and Jews, and Asian-Americans with his gun? Why would Buford O. Furrow, Jr. open fire in a Jewish Community Center, wounding the tiniest and most innocent of victims? Why do hate crimes appear to be on the rise? The truth is, they're not. The Anti- Defamation League (ADL) monitors hate crimes, and over the past several years, the number of hate crimes has decreased. But it appears that there has been an increase in the violence of some hate crimes, and that should not be ignored.

It's also hard to ignore three violent incidents targeting Jews, all within weeks of each other. Since the shooting last week at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, California, our ADL office has gotten plenty of calls. People want to know more about hate groups. They want to know how to protect themselves against such groups. They want to know whether it is safe to send their kids to certain schools. While we can't always allay the fears brought on by violent acts such as the one at the Granada Hills Jewish Community Center, we can answer those questions here at the ADL, and we can help people ensure that the purveyors of hate don't win.

No hate group or white supremacist should be taken lightly. The groups that have been connected with some of this summer's violent crimes have members who have committed violence before. Extremists become members of the Phineas Priesthood, which may have influenced Buford Furrow, the suspect in the Jewish Community Center shootings, when they commit "Phineas Acts," any violent activity against someone considered "non-White." Members of that honorary order, and it is indeed a dubious honor, believe Jews and people of color are "non-Whites," and that they are descended from Satan or are subhuman.

These kinds of teachings are ridiculous and wrong, and fortunately, it appears the majority of Americans understand this. A recent ADL national survey of anti-Semitism found anti-Jewish sentiment at historically low levels. And while most hatemongers want you to believe there's one hiding under every rock, our research indicates hate groups feel more alienated from society now than ever before. Their numbers are decreasing, and this may explain some of the desperation behind recent violent acts. What is important to remember is that we must not let these few desperate people rule the way we live our lives. When callers ask us at the ADL if they should take their kids out of Jewish schools, we tell them not to change their lifestyle.


We tell them to be aware and observant and we remind them if they see anything that smacks of racism or anti-Semitism or intolerance, such as swastikas, white supremacy symbols, or racist graffiti, to let us know. We keep track of bias-related incidents and crimes, and our records can help us see patterns that might be useful to us and others monitoring hate groups.

We also share information with police and FBI officials, and we encourage callers to do so when they are reporting crimes. That's not all we do. We try to stop prejudice before it turns violent, by taking our programs such as the 'A World of Difference Institute's anti-bias training into schools, and workplaces and community centers. We have literature and resources for teachers and others who want to combat hate by teaching prejudice awareness and appreciation of diversity. We can filter out hate group web sites with the ADL Hatefilterú. It not only blocks extremist web sites from your computer, it also sends the user back to the ADL's web site,, for information on extremist groups and why they're inaccessible through the Hatefilter. And we want people like Furrow to know they cannot win. The August 15, 1999 Unity Rally in Los Angeles is proof of that. People from all parts of Los Angeles gathered together near the North Valley Jewish Community center to send a message to Furrow: "We are united in our opposition to you, and your act has not split us apart. It has brought us together, made us stronger, and made us more determined to resist you and your devotion to hate."

Despite the acts of people like Buford Furrow, Jr. and Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, it appears that tolerance, not hate, is on the rise. As long as we know the hatemongers are wrong, and we fight their attempts to manipulate us, hurt us, and frighten us, they cannot win, and their numbers will continue to dwindle.

-Marks, a television news and media production specialist and Assistant Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Houston, wrote this essay exclusively for USAfrica The Newspaper, and The Black Business Journal.

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