Charlotte King is the founder of the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice. Dr. Marlene Saunders is the managing editor of Let the Truth Be Told.
“No hate here!”
That is the vision of the newly established organization, Speak Out Against Hate. The formation of this organization is a response to the acts of vandalism and expressions of hatred against several Sussex County residents and business owners who dared to represent and advocate for community respect and unity. The response to those actions from elected officials and community leaders was grossly insufficient.
The targeted individuals are members of the most historically hated groups in America, Black Americans and Jewish Americans. They, along with a diverse group of social and racial justice allies, decided to form an organization whose purpose is to inform all residents of Sussex County about the disturbing increase in incidents of hate; to make community and state leaders aware of the importance of and our expectations of their intervention; and to invite all those who recognize the destructive force of hate on families, communities and society to join SOAH to remove hate crimes from the many communities in Sussex County.
The group’s mission reads as follows:
“Speak Out Against Hate (SOAH) has been formed for the express purpose of confronting and countering the rising tide of hate, wherever and whenever it exists in a direct, focused and ongoing manner. SOAH seeks to engage in this effort with all people of good faith, community leaders, businesses, elected officials, clergy, law enforcement personnel, young and old, regardless of color, creed, sexual orientation, national origin or religion. SOAH will speak out early, often and follow-up on the rising incidents and expressions of hate and join forces in this effort with all similarly motivated individuals and organizations. We will insist that those in positions to execute policies and regulations speak out and develop strategies for legislation and policies to prevent this hateful and potentially destructive behavior. Our goal is to make ‘No hate here’ a reality in Delaware. All who are against hate are welcome to join SOAH.”
Throughout the years that the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice, one of the SOAH partners, has been active in Sussex County, there have been many incidents of hateful acts motivated by racist behavior, especially toward Black Americans throughout Delaware. Whether it was the defacing of the property of Sussex County families, or the racist graffiti on cars and buildings at a local school, or the vandalism, threats and verbal abuse of a long-standing business on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk that dared to display T-shirts and other swag that included the statement, “Eliminate Racism,” these incidents were met with indifference — or support — by some. The offended were left with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and the debilitating consequences of trauma.
These acts remind us that hate remains the primary weapon of those who choose exclusion over inclusion, inequality over equality, and individual power and dominance rather than shared community leadership. These corrosive events maintain the mistaken belief that the entitlements and equity articulated in the American Constitution are only for some Americans, not for all. Hate destroys our core American values and will continue to erode our democracy.
The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said, “When just one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it negatively impacts the entire community.” Attorney General Merrick Garland states, “All people in this country should be able to live without fear of being attacked or harassed because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love, how they worship, or what they believe.”
The FBI defines “hate crime” as “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Nationally reported hate crimes indicate an 11.6% increase, from 8,210 in 2020 to 9,065 in 2021. According to this year’s data, 63.1% of single-bias incidents were motivated by bias toward race/ethnicity. Anti-Black hate crimes continue to be the largest bias incident, followed by religious bias. Of the hate crimes related to religion, over one-half (51.4%) were anti-Jewish-related. Delaware statistics are relatively small given the rise of hate crime assaults in the last decade. The FBI speculates that this may be due to the underreporting of such crimes and incidents.
Fortunately, top state officials are speaking out about hate. For example, while speaking with SOAH leadership, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long said, “People are tired of not getting along.” Given the negative outcomes hate creates, she noted that Delaware is a trauma-informed state. She pointed the group to the state’s behavioral health network as an ally to bring attention to the emotional problems hate creates for children and adults.
Hate is divisive and corrosive and, ultimately, violent, as evidenced by the increased numbers of bias-driven incidents, the numerous visual symbols of hate, the frantic increase of membership in hate groups throughout the nation and the violent acts of hate that have destroyed many lives and property and have become increasingly common, rather than rare. There is no doubt that America will crumble as a beacon for justice and democracy if the steadily rising tide of hate crimes is not abated.
Speak Out Against Hate is a call to action to all who support a unified, beloved community. Join the group and add your voice and effort toward assuring that hate will never have a permanent home in our county and state.
For information about SOAH, contact us at sdarj.org/soah