To the editor:
There is a great danger in times of widespread social distress that people may turn to bigotry and hatred of “the other.”
Before World War II, a significant portion of the American isolationist forces, centered primarily among Midwest conservatives and Dixiecrats in the south, claimed that American Jews were responsible for driving the United States toward war with the Axis powers. We must militantly guard against slipping into such moods.
For example, the danger with labeling this plague “the Chinese virus” is not that of annoying the Chinese government, but of encouraging acts of persecution against Chinese Americans or anyone who seems to resemble them in appearance.
Also, we already have seen a backlash in rural parts of New York against the urbanites who own vacation homes among them, even though it is those urbanites who pay a disproportionate share of real estate and school taxes, because their children don’t go to the rural schools, and they do not use as much of many other local government services.
Likewise, we must guard against a tendency to blame poorer urban populations for having the misfortune of living more closely together than the wealthy. We must also avoid blaming the Orthodox Jewish community for the coincidence that some of the early breakouts occurred in their religious, educational or community contexts.
We cannot stand united in this fight if we resort to these petty differences against one another.