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"When public figures demonize whole swaths of people for their own political gain, they are complicit in the escalation from words to deeds that follow," said Heather McGhee, president of Demos. (Image courtesy of We Are Better Than This)

Hundreds of U.S. Groups Join Forces to Stand Against 'Dangerous Tide of Hatred, Violence'

'This feels like a tipping point for our nation'

Sarah Lazare

It is incumbent on every public figure, elected politician, and media outlet to stand up against the "dangerous tide of hatred, violence, and suspicion" taking hold in the United States, over 700 prominent organizations and people declared in a full-page ad in Thursday's New York Times.

"We grieve the many lives that have been lost or painfully transformed in recent weeks through extreme acts of violence. And we are appalled by the surge of divisive rhetoric that sows the seeds of more violence to come," reads the ad, which was organized by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, United We Dream, Center for Community Change, Demos, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Arab-American Association of New York, MPower Change, SEIU, Color of Change, and MoveOn.org.

Signatories warn that, in particular, violence is aimed at "Arab and Muslim Americans, women and the places we seek health care, Black people, immigrants and refugees, or people just going about their daily lives."

"We call upon our politicians, leaders and the media to stop the spread of hate and division," the statement declares. "And we pledge to stand with any community that is targeted by hateful rhetoric and violence."

The ad marks the launch of campaign against racism, bigotry, and violence, and many are expressing support on social media using the hashtag #WeAreBetterThanThis.

"In a week where Donald Trump says Muslims must be barred from America, and within weeks of horrific attacks, it’s a real ray of hope to see such a diverse array of Americans standing together to say clearly that we are better than this," said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, in a statement released Thursday.

The ad comes amid signs that Muslim—as well as Sikh—communities across the United States are facing a spike in attacks. In December alone, a pig's head was left at a Philadelphia mosque, a Sikh temple was damaged and sprayed with Islamophobic graffiti, and a Florida Islamic center was vandalized. Meanwhile, authorities in Seattle are investigating the recent death of Hamza Warsame, a 16-year-old Somali student, after public outcry at what some say could have been a hate killing.

These harrowing incidents follow others in November, including a mass shooting at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, and the killing of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Meanwhile, white supremacist hate groups—from the Ku Klux Klan to Stormfront—appear to be gaining power in the country, in part because Trump is providing them political cover.

"The spike began with the Paris attacks and has intensified with what happened in San Bernardino and now with what Donald Trump is proposing," Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, recently told the Associated Press. "I have never seen such fear and apprehension in the Muslim community, even after 9/11."

Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks U.S. hate groups, recently said of Trump's campaign: "This organization irresponsibly portrays all Muslims as extremists and is at the forefront of a well-funded effort to vilify Muslims in the United States with misinformation and demonizing rhetoric and to instill a climate of fear.  The mainstreaming of hate and extremism is dangerous to the millions of peaceful Muslims in our country and harmful to the fabric of our society—our responsible political leaders should condemn this bigotry."

At this dangerous time, organizations warn, people across the United States must stand with those communities that are targeted

"When public figures demonize whole swaths of people for their own political gain, they are complicit in the escalation from words to deeds that follow," said Heather McGhee, president of Demos. "Now is the time for all Americans of good conscience to declare their side, and affirm that we are made strong by our diversity, and made strongest by our unity."

In a blog post published on Thursday, McGhee indicated that the conversation that led to the ad and campaign emerged from a "sense of collective anguish: 'We are better than this.'"

"This feels like a tipping point for our nation," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, on Thursday. "Are we going to allow hateful rhetoric and the exploitation of fear to be our response or are we going to rise up and declare that we are better than this?"

"We have seen that dangerous and divisive words can lead to unspeakable tragedies," Hogue continued. "We have seen that the intentional misrepresentation of facts can inspire hate. And we have seen that dividing the nation makes us less safe not more safe. Now we must decide if this is the path we want to continue down or if we're finally ready to say enough is enough, hold leaders accountable and demand that they represent the best of America, not the worst."


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