July 30, 2020 — Philadelphia
AJC Open Letter to NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference
Dear Rev. Kenneth Huston and board members of the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP:
We write to you in a moment of tension in the relationship between our communities, and in the hope that we may turn it into an opportunity.
The recent antisemitic Facebook post by Minister Rodney Muhammad, President of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, propagates dangerous conspiracy theories and hurtful stereotypes about Jews. It undermines the noble mission of your organization to “ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights.”
Minister Muhammad has said that he was unaware that the image and quote were offensive. Yet it was not the first time he had shared antisemitic material, and the mosque that he leads (affiliated with the Nation of Islam) regularly posts hateful statements about Jews. He has also claimed to “stand will all members of the Jewish faith in the fight for social justice.” We pray that he is encouraged to take this hurtful incident as a call toward self-critical reflection and deep learning so that one day he may do so in earnest.
We recognize that Minister Muhammad does not speak for all Black Americans nor for all Muslims. In fact, we have been heartened by the statements from Black elected officials, civic leaders and Muslim religious leaders condemning his post and antisemitism, expressing support for Jewish brothers and sisters. Black and Jewish Americans have a proud history of partnership to advance civil rights, in which both of our organizations played essential roles.
Today, we ask for your courageous leadership in the face of challenge. The current American moment is too dire and our commitment to justice too great to allow the hateful comments of individuals to derail our efforts to revitalize Black-Jewish relations, to fight discrimination together, and to bring the American ideals of equality and justice to fruition. Complacency about antisemitism compromises the integrity of the fight against racism.
To combat any form of hatred requires that we first call out hate when we see it, regardless of its source. We appreciate the Pennsylvania State Conference’s strong condemnation of the antisemitic post, and we hope that the National NAACP follows your example in taking a clear public stance. Second, to truly work together as allies we must learn what pains the other. We invite you to engage with AJC and the Jewish community to deepen your understanding of antisemitic tropes and stereotypes; in turn, we offer our pledge to learn from you about the experience of racism and anti-Black bigotry. Finally, we must act together. We hope that AJC Philadelphia and NAACP in Pennsylvania can take tangible steps to actualize our shared vision of social equality and an end to discrimination in all its forms.
There are those who wish to use the antisemitic words of Rodney Muhammad and his mosque to drive a wedge between Black and Jewish people in our country. We ask that your esteemed organization act as a force for unity in the face of division and for amity over enmity. We are friends and partners in the struggle against discrimination and hate; we must work together to preserve and defend the rights and dignity of all.