This past Labor Day weekend two racially motivated, anti-Semitic hate crimes took place in Belle Harbor and Breezy Point. At Breezy Point Silver Gull Beach Club, racial graffiti slurs targeting the Jewish community were smeared on the walls. Anti-Semitic attacks such as “Hail Hitler” and “Gas Chamber” were also written on a door. Following this heinous incident, another more recent offense occurred at Belle Harbor. Anti-Semetic racial slurs were written on the sand of Belle Harbor beach, accompanied by a swastika image. Perpetrators also left the statement “white power,” again accompanied by a swastika image.
It is unfortunate that on Labor Day, a holiday that celebrates the combined labor struggles and achievements of collective groups of American people, our own communities remain divided by violent hatred. These abhorrent crimes remind each of us that anti-Semitism is not simply a thing of the past. In addition, these hateful messages reinforce the notion of white supremacy, the idea that whites are superior to all other races. This in turn leads to chauvinist beliefs that are upheld and enforced as seen with offensive racial slurs. For those of us who are all too familiar with these attacks and what they represent, we know that simply painting over these horrific messages does not erase the very real threats of violence present.
On the other hand, members of the white majority, often the ones committing these heinous acts, can hide behind their white privilege. Their privilege allows them to discount the very real threats against our humanity, our personhood, our lived experiences and additionally their own violent acts. This was recently evidenced by Dennis O’Conner a resident of Rockaway who brazenly showcased his racism and white privilege with his comment to my Facebook post on the matter,
“Wow what a boob! How do you know whites had anything to do with this morons”
O’Conner continued on to demonstrate his utter lack of empathy to these senseless acts as well as his willingness to remain ignorant about acts of violence that are clear displays of racism. He and other members of the white majority further hide behind white privilege and the erroneous, misguided, and simply uninformed idea of “reverse racism”. It is no surprise that more of these crimes have become evident in the Rockaway ever since the current President has been in office. Trump’s own blatant racism and white supremacy has emboldened white people to act out of their prejudicial biases to the extent that they are committing acts against anyone who is different.
These crimes alongside O’Conner’s several comments as well as the current president in power, leaves me wondering:
- When will white people take accountability for their actions?
- When will white people do the work to educate themselves, their family, friends, and other white people around them?
Moving forward, it is my sincerest hope that white people educate themselves about their intentional ignorance and do the work of decolonizing their dangerous white supremacist beliefs. Moving forward, I hope that groups impacted by oppression and racism will continue to stand in solidarity with each other, offering unity and support when it is needed. I will continue to raise awareness about these horrific issues because hate has no place in Rockaway.
Rockaway Youth Task Force, Executive Director
Dennis O’Conner; photo courtesy of Facebook