We cannot allow hate — even amongst us

Stacey Newman is Missouri state representative of the 87th District, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City.

Stacey Newman

When we were small, we were taught there were “bad words” we should never say. In elementary school we tested them out bit by bit, knowing that our parents and teachers would punish us if they actually heard us using “bad words.” By our teen years, we used these “bad words” with our friends for shock value. We heard adults use them, too.

In high school we were taught about historical oppression against certain peoples through the centuries. We began to understand how certain “bad words” were used in conjunction with discrimination and prejudice against people of color or of certain ethnicities, religious affiliations or countries of origin. We became aware that adults often used “bad words” to label certain individuals and not for nice reasons. Through religious and secular education we learned how hate begins, how hate is fostered and how hate magnifies. We learned that many of those “bad words” are directly related to the acceptance of hate.

As adults, we know hate. As women, we’ve experienced misogyny, as people of color, we’ve experienced racism, as people of various sexual identities, we’ve experienced homophobia and as Jews, we’ve experienced anti-Semitism. Our families have survived the horrors of the Holocaust, Japanese war crimes, other genocides based on hate and we promise to never forget. We vow “never again.”

We have seen hate, recognize hate and know in our core that hate is definitely wrong.

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As a legislator, I introduced HCR68 this year in the House, a resolution condemning the rise of hate groups with the resolve to respond to any acts of hate in our state.

It states in part, “Whereas, that all persons are created equal and are entitled to equal rights and opportunity under the law; a hate group may be identified as any group that propagates hate and encourages violence against specific sectors of the population identifiable by their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability; hate groups present a real existential threat to the equal rights and security of the citizens of Missouri guaranteed by their Constitution…and the General Assembly charged by the Constitution to protect the welfare of the people, has a responsibility to respond to such violent acts. Therefore be it resolved, the General Assembly hereby recognizes that hate should have no place in Missouri.”

I was offered a public hearing on HCR68 coincidentally the same week I went on medical leave due to a broken pelvis. However, I was very grateful the Chair of the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee understood the value of the resolution and appreciated his support.

Last year I discussed hate on the floor when calling for a moment of silence after the desecration of the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in University City. A bipartisan group of legislators attended the symbolic cleanup at the cemetery a few days later in solidarity. The majority of my colleagues understand the danger of hate and why it cannot be allowed.

Yet, recently we learned that my fellow legislator, State Rep. Bob Burns, D-St. Louis, has repeatedly called into the St. Louis-area Bob Romanik radio show with support for the white supremacist host, who makes ongoing vile, racist, homophobic and misogynistic on-air statements. Romanik’s expressions of hate and heinous attacks on numerous elected officials and minority groups are extreme.  It is unacceptable that Rep. Burns supported and praised this host as a long-time friend in multiple on-air calls to the program.

We cannot accept hate, particularly amongst us.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star editorial boards were quick to call for Rep. Burns’ resignation, as did Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri House Democratic leadership and the Missouri Democratic Party chair.  A letter signed by 14 area faith leaders (including six rabbis) and 24 groups calls for the Missouri Democratic Party to rescind Burn’s membership and not allow his candidacy as a Democrat on the November 2018 ballot. However, Burns has refused to step down as other legislative sanctions against him are considered.

A few weeks ago hate galvanized our community resulting in the firing of Jamie Allman, a local talk show host on St. Louis television and radio stations. Allman had abusively attacked David Hogg, a Parkland, Fla., high school gun violence survivor, and Parkway School District teens on social media in the most obscene, crass and venom filled language. A petition effort motivated thousands of people around the state to demand companies pull their advertising dollars from KFTK-FM, not expecting Allman to be quickly terminated from both stations.

Racist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic slurs and vile comments attacking any persons will not be permitted. Hate has no place in our community, our legislature or anywhere amongst us. We will keep flushing it out, stand up against it and teach our children better.

Hate is not acceptable. Period.