Take On Hate: “The Power of Change is Driven by Us”

On Mon­day, the Nation­al Net­work for Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties (NNAAC) launched their long-await­ed Take On Hate cam­paign, which is aimed at address­ing the per­va­sive prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion faced by Arab and Mus­lim Amer­i­cans. Numer­ous orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing SAALT, sup­port­ed the campaign’s offi­cial launch at the Nation­al Press Club in DC.

After open­ing remarks from Nadia Tono­va, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of NNAAC, civ­il rights allies spoke about the pat­terns of dis­crim­i­na­tion across com­mu­ni­ties and the impor­tance of this campaign’s goal to cre­ate real, long-term change. take on hateMee Moua, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Asian Amer­i­cans Advanc­ing Jus­tice (AAJC), remind­ed the audi­ence of the impor­tance of chang­ing the nar­ra­tive for all com­mu­ni­ties. “We need to change the con­ver­sa­tion around Arab Amer­i­cans from vil­lains to every­day heroes,” she said, recall­ing the com­mon theme that all com­mu­ni­ties of col­or have faced at some point in time. Hilary Shel­ton, Wash­ing­ton Bureau Direc­tor and Senior Vice Pres­i­dent for Advo­ca­cy of the NAACP, con­nect­ed this cam­paign to the civ­il rights move­ments in the 1960s and the need for col­lab­o­ra­tion between all com­mu­ni­ties of col­or. Deepa Iyer, cur­rent Strate­gic Advi­sor and for­mer Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT, described the South Asian and Arab com­mu­ni­ties as sis­ter com­mu­ni­ties based on their sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences with post‑9/11 back­lash and dis­crim­i­na­tion. Iyer assert­ed that the cur­rent hate com­mit­ted against both groups has devel­oped into a way of life that allows for such actions and instills fear in our com­mu­ni­ties. She con­tin­ued the thoughts of Moua and Shel­ton with an empha­sis on coali­tion-build­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion: “We can use Take On Hate to help us talk about hate in all forms. The pow­er of change is dri­ven by us.”

Take on Hate is a much need­ed reminder that we do have the pow­er to instill change. In the con­stant and over­whelm­ing face of prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple of col­or, it is cru­cial that our voic­es are heard and uplift­ed to dri­ve for­ward change. Whether it was Fred Kore­mat­su with the sup­port of the Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League (JACL) in chal­leng­ing the US government’s pol­i­cy of intern­ment dur­ing World War II, or Jose Anto­nio Var­gas speak­ing out on behalf of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants through­out the US, we must play an active role in chang­ing the dia­logue and reac­tions of our soci­ety around those that are “oth­ered,” so that soci­ety may final­ly begin to under­stand that we are Amer­i­cans, we are human, and we all deserve dig­ni­ty and respect. Skin col­or, reli­gion, race, eth­nic­i­ty, nation­al ori­gin, class, immi­gra­tion sta­tus, gen­der, gen­der iden­ti­ty, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, or any oth­er “iden­ti­fiers” do not define us as wor­thy of any­thing less.

This nation­wide cam­paign will begin in four cities this year – Chica­go, Detroit, New York, and San Fran­cis­co, and will grad­u­al­ly grow as it is mobi­lizes sup­port in dif­fer­ent areas of the coun­try. Through pub­lic edu­ca­tion, social media, and coali­tion build­ing, Arab and Mus­lim Amer­i­cans will ensure their voic­es are heard in order to con­front dis­crim­i­na­tion and advo­cate for pol­i­cy change that ben­e­fits numer­ous com­mu­ni­ties.  Once we all com­mit to “Take On Hate,” maybe we can begin to move towards a coun­try where all peo­ple are treat­ed equally.

In sup­port of the Take On Hate cam­paign, SAALT and NNAAC host­ed a brief­ing this morn­ing at the Capi­tol on racial and reli­gious pro­fil­ing as it impacts Arab and South Asian com­mu­ni­ties. Join the Take On Hate cam­paign today!

Vic­to­ria Meaney
Program/Policy Fel­low
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Together