Jewish Delegate Assembly of Greater Pittsburgh Statement on Stereotypes, Prejudice and Discrimination

Cosponsors: Jewish Community Center, Rodef Shalom, Temple Sinai, Community Relations Council

Background

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, who am I? If not now, when? –Rabbi Hillel (circa 100 BCE).

As Jews, we must be committed to combatting not only anti-Semitism, but also all forms of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.

According to the Anti-Defamation League:

  • A stereotype is an oversimplified generalization about a person or group of people without regard for individual differences. Even seemingly positive stereotypes that link a person or group to a specific positive trait can have negative consequences.
  • Prejudice is prejudging or making a decision about a person or group of people without sufficient knowledge. Prejudicial thinking is frequently based on stereotypes.
  • Discrimination is the denial of justice and fair treatment by individuals and/or institutions in many arenas, including employment, education, housing, banking and political rights. Discrimination is an action that can follow prejudicial thinking.

When diversity – differences in race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, language and class – is not valued and respected, the resulting lack of understanding can fuel intergroup tension and create an inequitable community. Not only can this tension cause inequities, it also creates the potential for scapegoating, discrimination, intergroup conflict and violence. Bullying, harassment, violence and hate crimes have a powerful negative impact on the entire community and underscore the importance of addressing issues of prejudice and discrimination.

 

Anti-Defamation League Pyramid of Hate

 

The Anti-Defamation League’s “Pyramid of Hate” illustrates biased behaviors, growing in complexity from the bottom to the top. Like a pyramid, the levels above are supported by the lower levels. If people and/or institutions accept behaviors on the lower levels as “normal,” it is more likely that the behaviors will progress to the next level.

There are issues of bias-motivated violence in Pittsburgh. In January 2016, a rock was thrown through a plate-glass window at a Mexican-Caribbean restaurant in Beechview. Days earlier, “Go back to Mexico now” was spray-painted on a Brookline market owned by the same owners. In May 2015, Kevin Lockett, a black male, was severely beaten by a group of white men at downtown T station. In July of the same year, a Jewish family, accompanied by their small children, was verbally assaulted in line at a drug store in Squirrel Hill when a customer shouted “dirty Jew” and other anti-Semitic speech at them. He followed them out of the store in order to continue to loudly spew more hate in their direction.

The Jewish Delegates Assembly of Greater Pittsburgh

  • Categorically opposes all forms of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.
  • Embraces a diverse community as critical to a strong future for the Pittsburgh region.
  • Notes how actions at the top of the “Pyramid of Hate,” such as bias-motivated violence, are deemed more acceptable by the perpetrators when it appears that society is more accepting of biases on the lower levels of the pyramid.
  • Recognizes the progressive nature of how bias and individual acts of prejudice, when left unchecked, can cultivate employment and housing discrimination, bias-motivated violence and even genocide.

The Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh should

  • Build strong alliances with racial, ethnic and other minority groups in Pittsburgh.
  • Engage racial, ethnic and other minority groups in Pittsburgh to publicly and/or privately advocate on behalf of those communities.
  • Pursue opportunities to help foster diversity among employers in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
  • Promote diversity and inclusion in Southwestern Pennsylvania by hosting community-wide education programs.
  • Connect the Jewish community to initiatives and learning opportunities within and beyond the Jewish community.
  • Create opportunities for interfaith and intergroup interactions between Jews and other members of the Greater Pittsburgh community.
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