Cleaning Up Our Broken Glass

Cleaning Up Our Broken Glass

Guest Column / By Jonathan Grunberg

It’s time for a new broken windows policy: one against racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We must prevent hate crimes from leaving shards of glass in our streets as Kristallnacht did.

Jonathan Grunberg
Jonathan Grunberg

We are all too familiar with the broken windows theory of policing: punishing small crimes to prevent big ones. There’s been a familiar divide between the opponents and proponents of broken windows policing. Democrats decry the over-policing of people of color, leading to kids being trapped in the criminal justice system. Republicans say crimes are crimes no matter how small, and the stakes are too high to let criminals slide.

Well, the stakes are too high to allow acts of racism and oppression to stand. If you believe in a great America — whether Democrat or Republican — it’s time to speak up against oppression, no matter how slight. To the Republicans who believe in broken windows policing, the time has come for you to stamp out racism, homophobia and religious-based oppression.

Let me be clear: The vast majority of Republicans think this kind of hate has no place in our country. We’ve heard the old guard of the Republican Party denounce Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims. That’s why I have hope.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, when German citizens rampaged through the streets, killing Jews and destroying their homes, businesses and synagogues.

Wednesday in the United States, we saw a surge in hate crimes: from spray-painted swastikas to schoolkids chanting “white power” to the harassment of hijab-wearing women. These are the broken windows! We are coming far too close to Kristallnacht. This is our chance to stamp it out.

If you think the recent hate crimes are just isolated events that won’t come of anything, I ask you to remember our history. Seventy-five years ago, we put 120,000 Japanese-Americans into concentration camps for fear they would sabotage our war efforts. And, yes, many were American citizens. And, yes, the Supreme Court let it happen. All the while, we let German-Americans roam free. Sadly, racism and oppression are also American ideals.

Now here’s the hard part. It’s difficult to call people out, whether friend or stranger. The last election notwithstanding, we tend to be a polite society. We let acts of racism, homophobia and religious intolerance slide.

We can all mine our history and recall moments when we failed to speak up against oppression: moments in high school when we didn’t defend an LGBTQ kid from a bully; moments when our friends used the N-word as we stood by; and moments when someone said “stop being a Jew,” and we were silent.

Please, don’t let the broken windows of intolerance and hate lead us to Kristallnacht 2.0. Please, don’t tell me I’m overreacting to isolated events, particularly if you have been a proponent of broken windows policing. We cannot deny our history of slavery, racism, homophobia, concentration camps and religious oppression.

Please, speak up now before none of us is allowed to speak.

Jonathan Grunberg lives in Atlanta with his wife, Lauren Linder, and their dog, Shiva. He’s a lawyer who is passionate about volunteerism in his free time.

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