Hate Has No Home Here

Marsha Luhrs
July 3, 2019 Bayboro, Pamlico County, NC 

Hate has no home here! Last week, when I saw the paid ad in The County Compass, with the photo of a hangman’s noose, I was appalled, but when I read the vitriolic, hate-filled words that appeared over the photo, I was stunned and angry. Lynching has become a federal crime as of last December. It took 100 years since the first anti-lynching bill was introduced to become law. If lynching wasn’t such a blatant, racist act of murder and terror, it wouldn’t have finally become illegal. It has long represented one of the worst practices of Jim Crow segregation and racism. How could the County Compass not have realized this was so offensive and wrong? I emailed Jeff, the publisher, immediately and expressed my dismay and shock at the incendiary ads he was accepting. I told him that the photo of the noose with the words of hate had crossed the line of decency, especially in today’s atmosphere of heightened hate and fear. I encouraged him to look at these submissions more carefully while still allowing for free speech. The only photo of a ‘noose’ we should see around here is of the Neuse River! 

Hate Speech has no home here! I understand, with dismay, that hate speech is allowed under our First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech. However I feel that Hate Speech is different than Free Speech because it often leads to Hate Crimes, and they are NOT legal. Hate crimes are motivated by bias against people based solely on their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc. Hate crimes are so pernicious because they have a broader effect than most other kinds of violent crime. They victimize not only the immediate target but also impact every member of the group that the direct victim represents.

Hate Crimes have no home here! Hate crimes affect families, communities, and sometimes the entire nation as we are seeing in many houses of worship. Whether they be churches, synagogues, mosques or temples, congregations around the country are grappling with safety and security issues in the wake of the recent massacres of people at prayer. We know that these hate crimes evolved from hate speech. I have an intimate relationship with this issue. My synagogue in New Bern now hires a uniformed, off-duty police officer for all our services and programs. This has been a huge emotional and financial burden to our small congregation that is all lay-led. While this does not guarantee our safety, we feel we must take some action in this tense environment. We want to be a welcoming congregation and open our doors to all people, but we also realize we live in a different world now, so we have to take steps to address that world. My career was in the Jewish community of St. Louis for 25 years at different organizations and synagogues. After every serious incidence of a hate crime against a Jewish organization anywhere in the country, we had to keep beefing up security. It was a sad state of affairs that this had to become the norm, as it is now a sad state of affairs that this has to become the norm in our schools.

Hate has no home here! Finally, what separates humans from animals is our speech. It is a gift. We should not abuse it. It should be used for good and not for evil. Judaism teaches that evil speech is a sin as bad as murder. Why? Because you can kill someone, or end their life as they know it, through slander, gossip, or hate speech that could cause deep depression, anxiety or even suicide. We can say things in many ways, but nastiness, evil or vitriol do not usually get us what we want or need. It only causes more friction, fear and anger, on the part of the giver AND the receiver. I’m sure we all learned the adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Or even, “Silence is Golden.” And while silence may be golden at certain times, NOW is the time to speak up forcefully yet fairly; candidly yet calmly; earnestly and honestly to impress upon our entire community that…Hate has no Home Here! Hate has no Home Here!



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