Responding to Hate in a Time of Anguish and Division
Not In Our Town’s story and mission began during the holiday season 30 years ago this week. After a series of attacks by local white supremacists against African Americans, Native Americans and other residents, the people in Billings, Montana found the courage to support those targeted by hate. After a brick was thrown through a window of a six year old boy who had placed a menorah in the window for Hanukkah, nearly 10,000 residents also placed paper menorahs in their window to demonstrate solidarity and support for their neighbors.
As we reflect on the impact of the actions of an entire community standing together against hate, we are now faced with the grief, anger, fear and division that has been generated by the horrific Hamas terror attack on the Israeli people, and loss of nearly 15,000 Palestinian lives and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza from the Israeli government’s response.
Our deeply felt, yet widely divergent views on how to create safety and security for Palestinians, Muslims, Israelis, and Jews around the world has created a dangerous chasm of hate and dehumanization, directed at both international and local communities. This not only has international impact but threatens the very fabric of our democracy by eroding the trust amongst communities, institutions, and individuals.
Helping All Neighbors Feel Safe from Hate
For Not In Our Town, a movement dedicated to making everyone feel safe in our local communities, we have urgent issues to address. Arab Americans, Jews and Muslims in the U.S. are experiencing a dramatic rise in hate and violence.
Our hearts go out to everyone experiencing the anguish of our current times. NIOT has been and will continue to be committed to a world where hate and violence directed at anyone because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, or ability is unequivocally denounced and prevented. NIOT will always stand up to offer a space for people to express their trauma, and we will hold community grief. And we will always work with diverse people to help them come together, find a way to listen to each other's pain, and act to stop hate.
Showing Up With Compassion
As hard as it is, we must look into our own hearts, grieve, watch our words, support each other, seek peace, find common ground, and help heal all communities but be especially attuned to those acutely impacted by hate. If there is hope in this fractured time, we can find it in people in our communities who are showing up with compassion, kindness and respect for each other, despite their differences. We humbly ask that in these days ahead we find a way to honor and cherish our shared humanity. Thank you for your leadership, courage and perseverance. Together, we can stop hate and prevent further harm.
Not In Our Town
For advice on addressing islamophobia and antisemitism at school, see this article from Edutopia by former NIOS Director Becki Cohn Vargas https://www.edutopia.org/article/addressing-islamophobia-anti-semitism-schools
(link to NIOT post Oct 17, 2023, Our compassion is our strength)