As the Bellingham Herald has reported, in recent weeks several books in the Jewish Collection at WWU Wilson Library were defaced on two separate occasions and one faculty member found a swastika outside their office door.
Since 2016, hate crimes have increased nationwide. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports 26 active hate groups in Washington state. Recent local incidents include vandalism to the Unitarian Fellowship building.
Our state law recognizes that certain symbols figure so strongly in the history of racial, ethnic, and religious violence as to constitute not just vandalism but an active threat (RCW 9A.36.078, Malicious Harassment).
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights notes that “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.”
The Whatcom Human Rights Task Force calls upon our community to unite against such contempt and to uphold Article 12 of the Declaration by preventing interference in any person’s privacy, home, family, and honor.
Here are five things each of us can do to join hands against hate in our community:
- Recognize that hate can take many forms, speech and symbols as well as acts. See the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, or sites such as splc.org.
- Speak up when you encounter hate speech. There is no such thing as a harmless joke or innocent remark where hate is involved.
- Hold our government and law enforcement agencies accountable. Let elected officials know that we will not tolerate hate in our community and that we fully expect hate crimes to be investigated and prosecuted as such.
- Help make our community safe for all. Attend vigils and rallies, initiate book groups or community conversations about race and bias.
- Support the organizations in our community that work to combat hate. Attend meetings and make your voice heard. You can learn about Whatcom Human Rights Task Force activities at whrtf.org.