Massachusetts State House.
Boston Bar Journal

The Importance of Calling Out Hate and Supporting its Targets

November 07, 2023
| Fall 2023 Vol. 67 #4

By Hannah L. Kilson

In our country generally, and this Commonwealth specifically, we must challenge the rising tide of hate. Over the past month, there has been a troubling increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes across the country following the horrific and deplorable October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Jewish and non-Jewish civilians in Israel and the Israeli government’s subsequent military actions in Gaza impacting Palestinian civilians. I extend my condolences to those directly impacted by these events, as well as to members of the BBA community feeling its far-reaching effects.

This rise in hateful speech and activity that has followed needs to be highlighted and condemned and understood as part of an ongoing truth in our country and the Commonwealth.

In the U.S., hate crimes rose to their highest recorded levels in 2021, according to the FBI, and hate crimes against Jews and Muslims continued to rise both prior to October 7 and in its aftermath. In the Commonwealth, the Anti-Defamation League’s 2023 report on “Hate in the Bay State: Extremism and Antisemitism” highlighted the following:

  • In 2021 there was a 33% increase in hate crimes in Massachusetts.
  • In 2022, there was a 71% increase in white supremacist propaganda in Massachusetts (the second highest in the U.S.).
  • In 2022, there was a 41% increase in antisemitic incidents, which was on the heels of a 48% increase in 2021.

While tragedy, upheaval, and strife abroad weigh on all of our hearts and minds, our Jewish friends, neighbors, and members of our community should not also have to fear for their own and their families’ safety here at home nor should our Islamic and Arab friends, neighbors, and members of our community.

Equality and justice require constant vigilance and a willingness to hold ourselves collectively accountable for recognizing each person’s humanity and to stand against the othering of any individual or group of people in order to separate members of a social group from the mainstream. It is our responsibility as stewards of our democratic society to renounce and to not allow the normalization of such tactics. Hatred thrives on ignorance and indifference. We must first acknowledge it, then work to combat it, while always being sure to support those most affected by it.

This community—not just at the BBA, but the entire legal community, city, and Commonwealth—must look out for, and show solidarity with, one another. We must be willing to have difficult, uncomfortable conversations, and always be open to new ideas and solutions to ensure we’re fostering a community where people of all backgrounds and identities feel safe and supported.

A priority of mine this year for the BBA is a renewed focus on lawyer well-being. A huge part of that is making sure we’re taking the time to check on each other, to ensure that our friends and colleagues and peers are not suffering in silence, and that they are aware of resources that are available to help them when they aren’t feeling at their best. Right now, many of our members are hurting—our Jewish and Arab members, our LGBTQ+ members, our immigrant members, as well as many others. All of them are seeing a rise in hate directed at them, their families, their friends, their communities.

I’ve said that the future of the profession depends on taking care of ourselves and each other, and on being fully engaged in the profession. The latter is not possible without the former. At this time, when so many groups are seeing and hearing threats to their communities, it has never been more important to show empathy and solidarity. Important mental health resources are available to members of the BBA through Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, including confidential counseling and supportive webinars on managing trauma. I encourage the utilization of these resources.

Here are some resources for lawyers experiencing direct or secondary trauma:

Moving forward, the BBA must continue to serve in its role as a convener and an educator to the Boston legal community. Combatting hate requires an entire community vested in ensuring that all voices are heard. Which voices can we amplify? What offices and organizations can we partner with? There is no simple solution, but by thoughtfully considering ideas from across demographics and throughout our membership we can identify worthy approaches. Tell us who you want to hear from, who we can work with, and what kinds of programs and education we can provide to equip our community with the knowledge and tools it needs to recognize, understand, call out, and—ultimately—eliminate hate and violence from our communities.

We always remind people that the BBA is for everyone—regardless of your background, your experiences, your path to where you are today, we are here for you and hope to have something to offer you. Now, more than ever, let’s work to make that true of the city and the Commonwealth. Boston, and Massachusetts as a whole, should be a place where all are welcome and all feel welcomed, and I look forward to doing all we can as a legal community to move closer to that collective reality.