“We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism, and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever.” – Ronald Reagan, October 26, 1984
According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 954 active hate groups in America: Ku Klux Klan, 72; Neo-Nazi, 121; White Nationalist, 100; Racist Skinhead, 71; Christian Identity, 20; Neo-Confederate, 31; Anti-LGBT, 51; Anti-Muslim, 114; and 141 groups designated as “general hate.”
“All hate groups,” the SPLC states on their website, “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
In October 1984, Republican icon Ronald Reagan spoke to Temple Hillel and community leaders in Valley Stream, New York. His words still resonate today.
“I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again,” Reagan forcefully affirmed, “as President, I will continue to enforce civil rights to the fullest extent of the law.
“… And as long as I’m President, we’ll have a Justice Department which argues for the rights of individuals to be treated as individuals, whether the case involves hiring, promotions, layoffs, or any other matter subject to the law.…
“…we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.
“At the same time that our Constitution prohibits state establishment of religion, it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral. And government should not make it more difficult for Christians, Jews, Muslims, or other believing people to practice their faith. And that’s why, when the Connecticut Supreme Court struck down a statute—and you may not have heard about this; it was a statute protecting employees who observed the Sabbath. Well, our administration is now urging the United States Supreme Court to overturn the Connecticut Court decision. This is what I mean by freedom of religion, and that’s what we feel the Constitution intends.
“The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, for anti-Semitism, or for bigotry of any kind—none. …
“…I know that many of you here today have your political roots in the Democratic Party. And I just want to say to all of you, to repeat what I said a moment ago, that I was a Democrat most of my life, and I know what it’s like when you find yourself unable to support the decisions of the leadership of that party. But to you and to the millions of rank-and-file Democrats who love America and want a better life for your children, who share our determination to build a stronger America at home and abroad, I can only say: Come walk with us down this new path of hope and opportunity, and in a bipartisan way, we will keep this nation strong and free.”
Reagan spoke of inclusion, of unity, no matter the political badge. He recognized that together we are all Americans.
Bigotry and hate, they’re still with us. Education, vigilance and action are the necessary tools for change.