It’s sometimes hard to see, but there is hate in our community. – Monterey County Weekly

Posted By on August 6, 2020

When you work at a newspaper, you expect to get a certain amount of hate mail. When Peter Hiller, a retired art teacher who is curator of the Jo Mora Trust Collection, wrotea recent opinion piece about the fate of a statue Mora made of Junipero Serra, Hiller expected some hate mail. It was a controversial opinion he argued that the statue of Serra, who terrorized Indigenous people in California, should remain out of public view. But he did not expect to receive an anti-Semitic attack that had absolutely nothing to do with the content of his opinion piece.

When Hiller sent me a photo of the mail he received, I was startled. Someone tore out the page with his story from theWeekly, and made a big black X through it. Then they highlighted his name in yellow, and drew a Jewish star, then highlighted that in yellow a resemblance to armbands Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Europe. It was unsigned, and there was no return address.

It was stunning, Hiller says. I almost felt like I wanted to drop it and get it away from me. It was like, wait a second, where is this coming from?

Its coming from a place of ancient hatred toward people just for who they are. And its coming from a deep well.The Anti-Defamation League tracks incidentsof anti-Jewish vandalism, harassment and assault, and their tracker shows on Aug. 3, a Jewish cemetery in Virginia vandalized with graffiti including a Nazi symbol; on July 30, a Jewish Zoom service in Dallas was disrupted by a chat that stated, Bomb Israel Kill All Jews; on July 29 in Thousand Oaks, California, a woman found a note on her car that read, Jewish Lifes (sic) Dont Matter.

It can be easy to think racially motivated hatred like this is something that happens in writing or online only. But on June 25, Monterey police arrested Daniel Birchell, a white man, for yelling racial slurs at a Black man. Police say Birchell approached the victim unprompted and began shouting, and when the victim started recording on a cell phone, Birchell slapped the phone out of his hand.

Yelling racial slurs at someone would be considered a hate crime, Acting Assistant Monterey Police Chief Mike Bruno says. You think its California, its a melting pot, and everyones tolerant then you realize, oh it does happen here.

On July 8, Birchell pleaded no contest to all charges against him, including a hate crime.

In 2018,a white couple shouted racist slurs and assaulted a Black man outside of Monterey Lanes,beating him until his jaw was fractured in multiple places. Also in 2018,a white man driving in Carmel used his vehicleto pin a Muslim man against a car, then drove off; the man and his family feared for their lives.

These are instances of real violence, but the hate communicated in writing can have a similar effect of intimidating people and making them fear for their physical safety. In Hillers case, he describes receiving the anti-Semitic markup as creepy. Whoever this person was had to either know me, or have done research about me, he says. They knew he was Jewish, and they knew his home address.

In Soledad in July, Erica Padilla-Chavez and Alejandro Chavez recoiledwhen their neighbor hung a Trump 2020 flag from an animal crate in front of their house. Given Trumps policies, and that Padilla-Chavez and Chavez are Latino in addition to being outspoken, progressive elected officials (on the Hartnell College board and Soledad City Council. respectively), it seemed clear in its intent.

All of these incidents aside, I think theres reason to be hopeful. That comes from reading this weeks cover stories (p. 24). While theres extremism and hatred in our community, its not as widespread as I mightve feared, and there are also initiatives to evolve. Padilla-Chavez and Chavez created the Monterey County Tolerance and Acceptance Fund building something positive out of something negative.

Chris Barrera, president of LULAC Salinas Council 2055, says it was their childrens idea to create the fund. Its human nature to lash out, he says. When instead one can step back, they realize they dont want to be part of the problem, they want to be part of the solution.

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It's sometimes hard to see, but there is hate in our community. - Monterey County Weekly

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