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I remember these signs when I visited my grandparents in Alabama when a child. It struck me then as it strikes me now as being wrong. Sadly while we may not go back to this there are more that would.

Some may find it strange that the two of us are co-authoring this given our different backgrounds and our past debates in the New Orleans City Council; what most would not know is that we have been friends for nearly 20 years, commencing when our sons played baseball together at the old Carrollton playground (loved that venue!). Coupled with the immense pride of winning a youth championship, we had the most diverse and interesting assembly of boys, including a devout Muslim, an Orthodox Jew who could not compete on Friday night and Saturday, a young man from the housing projects whom we picked up and returned for most every practice and game, and of course our two sons, Stevie (a Jew born outside Louisiana) and Jacob (an African American Episcopalian from New Orleans). We couldn’t have had more fun and pride as parents, coaches and mentors! What has prompted these two old friends, and at times rivals, to come together now to convey what we believe is a vital message? Easy — a mutual love for our New Orleans, and a genuine distress that our country is headed in the wrong direction given the obvious divisiveness.

It has never gone away but racism was sort of contained until 6 years ago when one candidate for president stoked his followers with racist statements. His presidency made it worse.

Never in our lifetimes have we experienced the level of hate, anger and hostility over our politics, economy, foreign policy, and even the meaning of democracy. Incidents of antisemitism, racism and bigotry are at frightening levels, and legitimate questions are being raised regarding what America is and really stands for. Respectful discourse has almost become a relic of the past and many are afraid — with good reason — to even express personal views. One need only look at recent events to understand: a murderous spree by a gunman in Buffalo targeting the African American community; a tragedy on the streets of largely Jewish Highland Park, in Illinois; a brutal physical attack on the House speaker’s husband by a perpetrator who likewise authored a manifesto detailing hatred against minorities; and a music icon and NBA player who have respectively endorsed antisemitism and denied the existence of the Holocaust. The cases of Kanye West and Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving are particularly disgusting and have drawn near universal condemnation from fellow celebrities, athletes, sponsors, and even the NBA commissioner. Celebrity comments can often be taken with a grain of salt, but their comments are truly disturbing. Ye essentially declared war on Jews, and Irving’s statements at their core endeavored to create a divide between African Americans and Jews by pitting historical suffering against the other. Such rhetoric is very dangerous. Clearly, the actions and dog-whistles of certain political leadership have empowered and legitimized bigots. Most thought neo-Nazis and the KKK were in the past, but frighteningly they have publicly re-emerged with new allies from QAnon, the Proud Boys, and others. Who would have ever thought that our nation’s Capitol would be attacked or, maybe worse, that some would try to justify one of the worst days in US history? Is this really the America we all want?

What is it that we should do?

What must people of good heart and reason do? Unify! It is more essential than ever that, in the face of bigotry and discrimination, we lock arms and stand shoulder-to-shoulder in loudly rejecting all forms of hate: racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia. It is not acceptable to just look the other way. We must collectively yell from the rooftops at the first sign of hate. This is particularly important for African Americans and Jews as we must not allow others — both externally and internally — to divide us. Hate against one will inevitably beget hate against the other. We close with optimism. The recently completed midterm elections provided some genuinely positive and surprising results, with the almost universal defeat of conspiracy candidates, election deniers, and fringe extremists. Voters from across the country largely rejected candidates who voiced hate and scapegoating. It should give all of us a moment of hope and a reason to work together to ensure our country can still be perceived as fair, reasonable and compassionate.  New Orleanians have survived Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, and we take great pride in our passion to make our community the best it can be. There is a Jewish phrase, tikkun olam, which means repairing the world. Let us all vow to work together to repair our world and make it devoid of the hate and ugliness recently manifested.

This is not by usual post but it is something that I believe in and we in GNOICC should believe the same. The authors are: Arnie D. Fielkow is CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. Tracie Washington is director of Title IX Compliance/Title IX Coordinator at the Southern University Law Center.

Racism rises in this country
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