Two recent incidents of hateful threats directed toward minority communities in Winston-Salem serve as reminders that racism and other forms of hatred still poison minds today — and may be backed by physical attacks.
Fortunately, they also serve as opportunities for these communities and their allies to step forward and say, “We’re not going anywhere.”
Late last month, racist and homophobic emails that called for a purge of minorities and members of the LGBTQ community were sent to a group of 12 faculty and staff members at Wake Forest University associated with the Department of Sociology, Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, LGBTQ Center and Intercultural Center.
“The emails were intentionally inflammatory, using racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and discriminatory language,” university police said in a message to the campus. They “praised the white male founding fathers, dismissed our undergraduates with ugly vile language, and called for our land to be ‘purged’ of people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community,” the sociology department said in a statement. “The call to ‘purge’ categories of persons, is a white supremacist call for genocide.”
As of this writing, no perpetrator has been identified, but Wake Forest officials have consulted with law enforcement and national threat assessment experts — including the FBI’s leading experts on domestic terrorism, white nationalism and hate crimes — who are investigating the emails.
The university was quick to offer support to its students, staff and faculty members.
“We pledge to stand by all our students, staff and faculty when they experience hate and discrimination of any kind. We must remember who we are as a caring and supportive community and move forward in the spirit of those values,” the university said in a statement.
It’s one thing to be proud of America’s Founding Fathers. But when that pride is twisted to denigrate other human beings, many of whom made their own contributions to our nation, that’s another thing. That’s an ugly, bigoted thing.
In a similar incident, white supremacist propaganda was found last week at Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem and on a blog naming the synagogue. The propaganda contained offensive and disturbing content.
Officials declined to reveal its details, but it was bad enough that the temple called the police, the FBI and other authorities and has hired extra security during the High Holy Days.
Rosh Hashana ended yesterday and Yom Kippur will be celebrated next week.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a very substantial increase of the use of propaganda and literature to create intimidation and fear,” Doron Ezickson, a spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League, said in a phone interview. “In the environment that we are experiencing right now, with incidents of active violence in houses of worship, it is very prudent of the synagogue to have been communicating the facts and for law enforcement to be aware.”
Both incidents are disgusting — and they’re not isolated.
Some say they’re tired of hearing about racism. They should imagine what it must be like to experience it.
Some may minimalize the threat, claiming the ignorant words of blowhards to be unworthy of comment or concern. But considering the violence that’s now associated with white supremacists — which has proved deadly at places like the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and Mother Emanuel in Charleston — as well as deadly attacks on the LGBTQ community, in places like the Pulse nightclub in Orlando — we can’t just scoff and turn away. Lives could be at stake.
As long as such incidents occur, good people must take a stand and condemn the hatred and sheer stupidity that drives them. Our friends and neighbors deserve respect, support — and safety.