In a year characterized by a number of high-profile acts of hate, there still were many remarkable moments of hope and inspiration. Here are some of the stories that energized and uplifted us in 2018. Many of these involved moments when Americans and people from around the world and from all walks of life came together to be an ally, advocate, or activist.
Muslim leaders and communities raise more than $200,000 in support of Pittsburgh shooting victims
Hidden Children of the Holocaust speak out on family separation
In the summer of 2018, the Trump Administration announced its “zero tolerance” policy for migrants seeking to cross the border, leading thousands of children to be forcibly separated from their parents. After seeing the impact to families and children in a way that reminded them of their own experiences during World War II, the Hidden Children of the Holocaust challenged the policy. The group of Holocaust survivors, now in their 70s and 80s, raised their voices, not to draw a comparison with the singular tragedy of the Shoah, but instead to show support for these migrant families by speaking out on a video that went viral and in interviews with the news media about the severe and lasting trauma they endured as a consequence of their own forced separation.
March for Our Lives: Largest display of student activism in a generation
March for Our Lives galvanized a national conversation about gun control and represented the biggest youth-led protest since the Vietnam War. Almost a million students and allies marched on March 29, in an estimated 800 events across the country, to protest gun violence. The effort continued gun control advocacy that students began after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman opened fire, killing 17 students and staff and injuring 17 more. Regardless of how one feels about the Second Amendment, the mass mobilization of civic energy inspired millions and reminded the country of the power of the people.
Canadian Prime Minister apologizes for turning away Jews during World War II
This year saw a number of deeply disturbing revelations about how tech companies used or abused information from their users, tolerated hate speech on their platforms or even made excuses for such poison.
British Prime Minister stands up against anti-Semitism and misogyny
British Prime Minister Theresa May gave a rousing speech attacking both anti-Semitism and sexism as pervasive ideologies that can be neither underestimated nor ignored. “As is so often the case with anti-Semitism, bigotry directed at Jewish women also comes from those who would never consider themselves to be racist, including within the women’s rights movement itself,” May said in November at the Sara Conference. She went on to explicitly categorize anti-Semitism as racism. “I have no time for equivocation,” she said. “Any ‘equality’ movement that indulges or ignores it [anti-Semitism] is not worthy of our time.” At a time when anti-Semitism in Europe is on the rise, May’s firm stance is more important than ever.
Viral fundraiser raises more than $20 million to help reunite families separated at the border
A Silicon Valley couple, Charlotte and Dave Willner, intended to launch a modest fundraiser to help separated families at the border this summer. The goal was to raise $1,500 -- the minimum amount needed to pay the bond cost to get a single migrant awaiting asylum released from detention pending a hearing. Much to everyone’s surprise, this fundraiser earned more than $20 million. All of the funds were donated to the Refugee Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, a Texas-based immigrant legal services provider.
Heroic immigrant reminds world of power of people regardless of their citizenship
Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who started the now common practice of players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, was featured as narrator in a new Nike advertising campaign. The company highlighted individuals who overcame adversity to succeed and used their success to break boundaries in other areas of society. The ad urged all of us to “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Though many people may have strong feelings about Kaepernick and his form of protest, it was impossible not to be moved by the inspirational message that encouraged individuals, regardless of their race, creed, religion, socio-economic background or level of ability, never to retreat from the pursuit of their dreams.
Israeli athletes allowed to compete under flag for first time at international Judo competition
For the first time, Israeli athletes were able to compete in sports tournaments in the United Arab Emirates under the Israeli flag. Previously, tournament organizers in the UAE refused to identify Israel by name, display its flag, or play its anthem when Israeli athletes won gold medals. While an Israeli athlete who won a gold medal at the tournament in 2017 could only mouth the words to the Israeli national anthem, HaTikvah, while organizers insisted on playing a different song, this year HaTikvah played loud and clear, and it was moving to see Israel’s sports minister on the stage and crying in response to this historic first.
The UAE’s commitment to hosting a tournament that treats all athletes fairly and without discrimination on the basis of national origin is a brave signal in favor of fairness and openness. This is the first step toward building more inclusive relationships within the Middle East.
Despite a year that seemed, at times, riddled with hate, these bright spots prove that we are moving closer to our vision of a world where no one is the target of discrimination or threats, and all receive justice and fair treatment.