MLK’s Legacy is More Relevant as Hate Rises

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

A report that hate crimes surged in America’s five largest cities last year has broken just as we prepare to honor the nation’s best-known victim of a hate crime.

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes were at their highest level since September 11, 2001, in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, with the Jewish community being the most frequent target in all five of the cities.

“These data reflect several trends, including an escalating tribalism, where various prejudices like anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia, among others, are widely shared across a diverse grouping of people,” Brian Levin, the report’s lead author, said. “Next, local demographic changes in densely populated cities means more people are coming into contact with each other right at a time when fearful stereotypes are increasingly become the kindling for violent behavior.”

In the wake of the shooting and stabbing attacks on Orthodox Jews in New York and New Jersey, far-right trolls hoping to exacerbate racial tensions have been posing online as Jews to post racist screeds against African Americans.

Online sleuths who traced the racist plot back to the website 4chan – a site that author Elad Nehorai called “a radical breeding ground: – found slur-ridden comments like “You are throwing high-quality octane fuel” on the “fire” of Jewish-Black relations, “Let’s see some riots,” and “If you break the Black-Jewish alliance, it’s all over for the Jews.”

It’s instructive to note that the goal of white nationalists is to drive a wedge between marginalized groups. And vital that we actively and forcefully resist these efforts.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Dr. King wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The National Urban League, as one of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Racial Equity Anchor Institutions, is proud to celebrate the fifth annual National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday, the day after Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. he day is a call to action to mobilize communities, organizations, and individuals across the United States in support of truth, racial healing and transformation.  More than 70 events around the nation are scheduled, and you can follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag #HowWeHeal.

As one of the Anchor Institutions, we stand side-by-side with racial justice and organizations representing Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and other ethnic and religious communities – tied together, as Dr. King said, in a single garment of destiny.

As disheartened as we may be by the rising level of hate crimes, and as disgusted as we may be to read the words of online trolls, we must guard against meeting hate with hate. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

The monster of racism feeds on hatred. The only way to kill it is to starve it.

Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.

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