Rabbi Joshua Lief of the Temple Shalom, Bishop Mark Brennan of the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Rev. Darrell Cummings of the Bethlehem Apostolic Temple shared their theories about hate crimes against Asians.
Bishop Brennan suspects that some people resent Asians because of their educational accomplishments.
“Because they value education,” the bishop said. “They study. They work hard. That’s why they get good grades.”
“The majority sometimes feels threatened by those who are in any way different,” said Rabbi Lief. “ ‘How dare you be different than me. You must be critiquing me. I now feel threatened and under attack.’ “
They agreed that words matter, and that high profile people calling COVID 19 “the Hunan flu” or “the China virus” are sending a message.
“I think they’re like dog whistles,” said Pastor Darrell Cummings. “And I don’t think they’re ignorant of the words they’re using. I think they’re very clear and they know who they’re talking to.”
“Those choices we make by the words we choose can fracture our society and bring discord and distrust to our world,” said the rabbi.
“A childhood statement when I was growing up was ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,’ “ said Rev. Cummings. “But we’ve come to find out that’s a total lie! Words do hurt you.”
So how can we stop the wave of hate?
First, Rev. Cummings advises, don’t laugh at the jokes. They’re not funny.
And Rabbi Lief says don’t sit on the sidelines while hate and violence happen.
“We do have to rise to the challenge of defending not only our neighbor, but the stranger,” said Rabbi Lief.
Bishop Brennan wondered about the attackers.
“How many of these people are actually practicing any religion?” he said. “How many would be hearing a message about loving your neighbor? Accepting another person as he or she is?”
“I think it’s because they’re hurt,” Rev. Cummings said. “They’re hurt. They feel like they’ve lost something. And the way they try to feel better is by hurting someone else.”
Rev. Cummings said we have to become like a camera.
“Focus on something,” he said. “Use the negative to make a positive. And if it doesn’t turn out, take another shot!”