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Statement by Shenandoah Titus, Human Rights Officer for the Town of Amherst, MA, May 2002, Condemning Antisemitism (delivered at a rally condemning antisemitic graffiti found at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst)

Good Afternoon Friends and Neighbors:

I stand before you and with you as the chief human rights official of the Town of Amherst. Standing in this crowd with like-minded people, perhaps we all feel a sense of unity, strength, and security. And while there is power in numbers, don't ever take for granted the power of one.

When this crowd is dispersed today, each of us will return to our daily lives as individuals. And when we are tested to speak out against the evils of bigotry and antisemitism, we will not have the comfort and security of the crowd we now stand within. That moment of standing up for humanity as an individual, will be the true measure of who you are, and what you believe.

And now we ask the question, why should I as an African American man care about antisemitism? If I were Caucasian, why should I care about racism against people of color? Indeed as a male, why should I care about discrimination against women? After all, as long as I am not the target of bigotry and hatred, nor my family and friends, shouldn't I just mind my own business?

And we are here today to say collectively and then individually, that we will not be silenced nor segregated. Though I may be an African American who was raised a Southern Baptist, antisemitism is an offense against me. It is an offense against all that I believe, and all that I stand for. And what you do unto my Jewish brothers and sisters--you do unto me. What harm you cause in you graffiti, your hate-mail and your shameful acts of violence, you bring such harm to me.

Therefore, on behalf of Town Government and the fine citizens of Amherst, I am putting those who would hate on notice. Town Government will use every available power, to enforce human rights and bring to justice those who would abuse the rights of others. The law cannot regulate human feelings, but it can regulate human conduct!

Further notice to the bigot, until you are able to convert your hateful acts to forms of civil disagreement, you will find yourself constantly looking over your shoulders, constantly wondering where and when it is safe to carry out acts of bigotry--and constantly feeling frustration that in this community, there is no safe haven for hatred.

You will become a prisoner of you own inhumanity. And only compassion and understanding will set you free!


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