United Way Will Not Be Silent in Challenging Hate and Oppression

By Gordon McHenry, Jr., on February 1, 2022 | In News, Racial Equity, Statements from Leadership

It has been two weeks since the holiday commemorating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and one week since International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  These are two days in the first month of the year that should motivate us all to reflect upon the recent past to take action to continue the hard and unfilled task to create societies where all people are welcomed and loved for who they are – and not a society where acceptance and belonging is dependent upon their perceived identity.

On January 15, we remembered Dr. King’s call for race and social justice; reflected on his courage and commitment to peace and reconciliation, and his call to action to transform our society into one where character, not religion, ethnicity, color or creed, determines a person’s reality. 

On January 27, the United Nations implored the world to remember the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the millions of other victims of Nazism to honor their lives and help prevent future genocides.

And in this same period, almost daily we heard stories of identity-based acts of hate and oppression.  In the week of the MLK National Holiday, we witnessed via the national news another Jewish Synagogue and worshipers be attacked.  We then saw video of an Asian woman being pushed to her death in a NY subway and we wondered was it because of her identity. 

This past Sunday, here in King County, we learned that hate speech has been left on a wall across from community partner Jewish Family Services (JFS).  My friend and CEO of JFS, Rabbi Will Berkovitz concludes this harmful action was in response to an Opinion-piece he wrote in the Seattle Times calling attention to growing acts of harm and hate against Jewish people.

Will writes, “We call this hatred what it is and call on those who are not Jewish to do the same.” I think of Dr. King’s 1963 message from a jail in Birmingham, Alabama that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Dr King reminds us that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  In these times of challenge and controversy, we at United Way stand with leaders like Rabbi Will and community partner Jewish Family Services.  Antisemitism has no place here.  As we work in partnership across King County for a racially just community where all people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable, we will not be silent in challenging identity-based hate and oppressions.


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