BCK FILE-Last weekend at a Costa Mesa house party, a group of Orange County high school students played beer pong. During the evening, some of the students arranged the red cups into a swastika. A dozen or so partygoers posed around the display, raising their arms in a sieg heil salute, an image some of the students shared on Snapchat and other social media sites.
Throughout the country, anti-Semitic incidents almost doubled from 2016 to 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League -- the largest single-year increase since the organization first started tracking anti-Semitic incidents four decades ago. K through 12 school accounts have surpassed public spaces for the sites with the most incidents reported.
According to the ADL HEAT Map, which tracks hate crimes, extremism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism, there were 3,783 incidents of extremism or anti-Semitism in the United States in 2017-2018. For the first year since 2010, anti-Semitic incidents had been reported in every state in 2017, according to the most recent report available. The state with the second highest number of anti-Semitic events was California. This increase in anti-Semitic and extremist incidents parallels a rise in hate groups in the U.S. for the fourth straight year, as reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The increases in hate groups and crimes have been attributed to a number of variables, including the growth of social media platforms and technology, which makes these groups more accessible but with the protection of anonymity, as well as the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been a backbone of President Trump’s campaign and presidency. Some students involved in the Orange County incident have issued letters of apology. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District has posted a statement condemning “all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all forms” stating that the district “continues to work with the Costa Mesa and Newport Police Departments in this open and active investigation to determine the appropriate course of action.”
It’s deeply troubling to witness the emboldened displays of hate in this country, whether white supremacists in Charlottesville or political figures at CPAC or rallies. While these students may never join the KKK or march with Tiki torches, they have shown a chilling acceptance of hateful rhetoric. As a country and in every community, we’ve been on a destructive path where prejudice is valued by many, including our president. While the educational efforts of the school district may be a first step to address the issue, the real message must come from the top-down. We must create real change, not superficial apologies when caught.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a professional writer living in the Los Angeles area. She covers Resistance Watch and other major issues for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.