Jews of Pittsburgh watched with horror, and unfortunate familiarity, this weekend as two more shootings left communities in mourning. For many of us, memories flooded back from that Saturday morning nine months ago when we waited to hear who, and how many, from our community had been lost.
Pittsburgh is now tied to El Paso by a web of hate. With Christchurch, Poway, Charleston and too many others, we share the tragic bond of terror brought on by the violence of the white power movement. We have a choice. We can let hate win – and these days it seems like it often is winning – or we can fight.
That fight starts with the President. The leader of our country has empowered, enabled and encouraged this hatred. His deference to “both sides,” characterizations of honest, loving human beings as “rats” that “infest” our country, demands that elected representatives “go back” to their countries and constant references to an “invasion” of migrants provide the match to the kindling of white nationalism.
Three months ago, ranting about migrants at a Florida rally, Trump asked, “How do you stop these people?”
“Shoot them,” yelled a person in the crowd.
And that’s exactly what someone did.
But they will not stop us. We are weaving together communities where relationships did not exist before. We have seen the awesome power of solidarity. When we marched in Pittsburgh and demanded the President fully denounce white nationalism, we didn’t do it alone. Pittsburgh’s Jews were surrounded by and supported by the larger Pittsburgh (and even a global) community, calling for the President to recognize that words matter. We realized his rhetoric was deadly, not only for the Jewish community. And that has been proven, sadly, time and time again since October 27.
Words made us a target. Our community spoke out in defense of immigrants and refugees. Words also motivated a white nationalist to terrorize shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, a city that is 80 percent Hispanic or Latinx. In that case, though, it was the words of the President of the United States.
Since we made our demands of the President, we have been waiting for him to denounce white nationalism. And waiting. And waiting. When he finally did, reading stiffly and awkwardly from a teleprompter on Monday, it was hard to find the words anything but hollow and insincere. There’s a reason: He is a racist.
We see you, Mr. Trump. And the people of El Paso see you. To borrow from the impassioned words of Beto O’Rourke, we do know how to connect the dots. And the connected dots all lead right back to you.
The white nationalist playbook, in many ways, is simple: use hate to divide. Keep those who should be standing shoulder to shoulder, who should be holding each other up, apart. Do it with hateful rhetoric and, yes, with violence.
We in Pittsburgh are here to tell the people of El Paso, Dayton, Gilroy, Christchurch, Poway, Charleston and every place where the politics of hatred turns to bloodshed that we will not allow this division to happen. We grieve with you and we stand with you in solidarity.
We invite you to join us as we reject hate and division, embrace diversity and inclusion, building a safer multiracial democracy.