Statistics show that the majority of hate crimes are Anti-Semitic, and targeted towards Jews (Figure 1). As Nancy Foner points out in her book From Ellis Island to JFK, Jews were not considered truly white at the time of last great immigration wave. Although this may have changed today, since Jews are more commonly looked at as “white”, discrimination against Jews still strongly persists. This shows that no matter how assimilated or acculturated into a group you may be, there is danger and threats to minority groups.
On 11-11-11, the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht (“night of broken glass” during the Holocaust where the Nazis shattered Jewish storefront windows), an Anti-Semitic hate crime took place in Midwood, Brooklyn. Three cars, belonging to Jews, were torched, “KKK” was spray painted on the side of a van and swastikas on benches, and the words “FUCK JEWS” were on the sidewalk. Normally, graffiti would be considered vandalism, and car burning would be considered a violent crime; But because of the specific references to Jews it was considered a hate crime, which struck me to be far more personal than a violent crime.
Being apart of the same community, and closely affiliated with the victims of this hate crime, it has certainly shaken our community as a whole. In disbelief people rushed to the crime seem to see the skeletal remains of the cars (Figure 2). The trauma has encouraged parents to take strict precautions with their children, community leaders to come together to increase the safety on the community, and more. Community ancestors came to America because it wasn’t safe in their old country, whether it be Syria, Egypt, Germany, etc. Now, many generations later, we are still experiencing the same alarming fears and threats. Even though I am a fifth generation immigrant (if that is even possible) and consider myself to be American, I sometimes feel the need to hide my ethnic roots and identity to ensure my safety. It is frighteneing to think how unprotected and insecure one can feel in their own home.
Some people are ignorant enough to dismiss this hate crime as a mere violent protest against social class. Despite the expense of the cars, there is no justifying cause for the derogatory prejudicial writing. In addition, following this hate crime there has been two other incidents of vandalism against Jews. The first was a few blocks down from this hate crime, on the Avenue J ‘Q’ Train. The sign that read “Avenue J” was switched to be read as “Avenue Jew”. The next was when a swastika was painted onto an elevator in Williamsburg, another predominately Jewish residency.
Maybe the Jewish characteristics that Foner describes in her book are no longer applicable today, but the racial divide between groups is still fairly obvious.
Figure 1- Comparison of Hate Crime Rates Across Protected and Unprotected Goups by: The Williams Institute: policyarchive.org
Figure 2- Torched Cars: ironicsurrealism.com