‘It’s YOUR fault if I hate you!’

Bigots like Elon Musk always point a finger at the victims of their baseless prejudices.

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Statue of Anne Frank near her home in Amsterdam, where the girl and her family hid for two years before being betrayed to the Nazis.

A statue of Anne Frank near her home in Amsterdam, where the girl and her family hid for two years before being betrayed to the Nazis. Antisemitism is on the rise in the United States.

Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

Just over 63 years ago, in the summer of 1960, the “Greenville Eight,” led by 18-year-old Jesse Jackson, were arrested. Their crime was insisting on reading at the main public library in their South Carolina town, despite clearly being Black, and thus not permitted.

The case led to a federal court ordering Greenville to integrate its libraries. So the town did what it thought was the only decent, moral, Christian thing it could do: close all the county libraries rather than accept the obvious impossibility of letting Black people paw books intended for whites.

Now nobody could use the library, and it was clear who was to blame.

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“The efforts being made by a few Negroes to use the White library will now deprive all White and Negro citizens of the benefit of a library,” Greenville Mayor J. Kenneth Cass said in a statement.

The fault lay with the eight teenagers trying to use the public library, not with the town trying to stop them.

Bear in mind this nimble sleight of hand, almost a magician’s trick. Because we see it all the time, now, in our day.

The Greenville Eight echoed when Elon Musk said he was going to sue the Anti-Defamation League because the ADL called for companies to suspend advertising on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, until Musk addresses the neo-Nazis and other hardened haters he permits to run wild there.

“ADL seems to be responsible for most of our revenue loss,” Musk posted. Not himself and his policies. The pushback is to blame.

The NAACP also begged advertisers to avoid the website.

“In Elon Musk’s Twittersphere, you can incite an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which led to the deaths of multiple people, and still be allowed to spew hate speech and violent conspiracies on his platform,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP. “Any advertiser still funding Twitter should immediately pause all advertising.”

Like most boycotts, it was ineffective — in fact, the ADL started advertising on the former Twitter itself, trying to counter the hate speech. I still use Twitter — I’ll start calling it “X” when Chicagoans start calling the Bean “Cloud Gate” — for the same reason I kept being an American when Donald Trump was president. Twitter was around long before Musk overpaid for it; it’ll be around long after he slinks away.

Two evergreen truths about haters. One, they always blame their victims for drawing contempt upon themselves. Always, there are reasons. Their paperwork isn’t in order. They wear funny clothes. They celebrate in a public, overly enthusiastic fashion reserved for white folks after their teams win championships.

Two, their victims are fungible. The group being blamed literally does not matter. Any will do. Trump began his presidential campaign eight years ago by lashing out at Mexican immigrants. Then Muslims. A few days ago it was the Jews. He marked Rosh Hashana by warning “liberal Jews” who voted “to destroy America & Israel” when they booted him out of office in 2020 to get in line. Or else.

“Liberal Jews” is one of those qualifiers intended as a fig leaf to the obscenity of hate, like “illegal immigrants.” A distinction without a difference. Incidentally, Israel is well on the way to destroying itself, no help from American Jews, liberal or otherwise, required.

The Greenville episode is the sort of thing Ron DeSantis, whose presidential debutante ball was thrown by Musk, is trying to pluck from Florida history books, on the laughable premise that learning about racism makes white kids “feel bad.” Funny, because if they actually felt bad about America’s often shameful past, they’d shut up and learn our history.

Speaking of learning history and feeling bad, I went through the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam Friday. What stood out was the utter ordinariness of the Frank family, their prosaic household possessions and albums of snapshots. How Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was not blind to the peril — he moved his family from Germany to Amsterdam, then created the secret annex to hide in. There was no escape.

At the end of the tour, a short animated film on how democracy is under assault all over the world, and how those who would live in a free society must do everything we can to keep fascists from seizing control. Hitler was voted into power in 1933. It happened before. It can happen again. I suspect it already is happening here, right now.

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