The audacity to love comes with the duty to protect
I applaud President Biden and Vice President Harris on making an important first step to addressing the crisis of growing antisemitism our nation is facing. As someone who has spent weekends patrolling to keep my friends and neighbors safe while they worshiped, I appreciate President Biden for saying what has been evident for years in America: this is a severe problem, and it’s getting worse.
One of the primary calls of action in the Biden-Harris plan is to build cross-community solidarity and collective action to counter hate. The New Haven I know exemplifies the kind of community that this plan strives to create. But, as proud as this makes me as a resident, the fact that we are on the right path comes with its own continued risks.
In 2018 when Mayor Harp made it clear that New Haven is a city where we love our neighbors, the former President put a target on us. As a nation, it took us too long to realize how deadly and serious that man’s threatening rhetoric posed to our democracy and freedom of safety—a danger that has yet to diminish.
They hate us because of our audacity to love each other.
They hate us because the largeness of our hearts shows how tiny they are.
They hate us because in our commitments to each other across our diverse communities, we not only challenge their twisted worldviews, we definitively prove them wrong.
We will never cower before any threats or acts of terrorism. We will never bend to hate.
Our values are not a campaign issue. I know with firm certainty that every candidate for mayor shares in common the bedrock principles that Mayor Harp so bravely declared in the face of a hostile POTUS.
However, this is a nation where violent extremists emboldened by wild conspiracy theories will drive hundreds of miles to launch attacks on a minority community. As Beaver Hills’ Alder, in the wake of the racially motivated shooting in a primarily black grocery store in Buffalo, I held a Prevent Violence Extremism Round Table with residents, local business owners, community leaders, faith leaders, public safety officials, and other community stakeholders.
Unfortunately, this past Memorial Day weekend, a right-winged hate group planted lawn signs in Beaver Hills at the roundabout that connects a predominantly Jewish community with a predominantly African-American community. Our city needs a plan that addresses the threat posed by violent extremists before we become the next headline.
Our values, unfortunately, are not enough to protect us. Our intentions as a collective community only matter if they are matched with decisive action. We must rise to the challenge and have courage. As I would tell my teenage daughter when she was bullied in school because she wore a traditional headscarf, “Learn to stand strong in the face of adversity!”
We don’t elect our local leaders to tell us about national trends. We need leaders that take bold, proactive measures to keep people safe. Violence in any form is a public disease, and its impact on us is grave. New Haven needs a seasoned leader today that can effectively solve tomorrow’s issues.
As President Biden rightly noted in this commendable plan:
While antisemitic incidents most directly and intensely affect the Jewish community, antisemitism threatens all of us. Antisemitic conspiracy theories fuel other forms of hatred, discrimination, and bias—including discrimination against other religious minorities, racism, sexism, and anti-LGBTQI+ hate.
It is time to usher in a new era of safety prevention, which is community engagement policing. We need a defined police and community covenant partnership where everyone will clearly understand the role they play in creating safe, vibrant, and wholesome neighborhoods. We need gun-free, violence-free, and hate-free zones, especially near our temples, synagogues, mosques, masjids, churches, schools, and parks.
Safety is a human right, and vigilance is a duty. Let’s build that safer New Haven together with a leader who knows first-hand how to keep people safe on Day One.
– Democrat Shafiq Abdussabur is a retired NHPD Sergeant of 21 years running for Mayor of New Haven