Joanna Mendelson Talks White Supremacy for Feinberg 2018

Emerson Little

FOR THE QC

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“Rhetoric used by politicians has given rise to xenophobia and anti-semitism,” starts Joanna Mendelson at the 2018 Feinberg Lecture that took place last Thursday, Feb. 22 in Villalobos Hall. 

Mendelson, the Senior Investigative Researcher and Director of Special Projects for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, was invited to discuss the rise of white supremacy, hateful rhetoric, and extremism in Southern California. 

Her talk, titled “The Normalization of Hatred and Bigotry: The State of Hate in California,” brought students, faculty, alumni, and staff to converse about white supremacy, and what we as Whittier College students can do about it. 

Mendelson presented three cases in her presentation where according to her, “individuals who don’t necessarily have extremist ties acted on their anti-semitic beliefs.” Anti-semitic incidents are on the rise in the United States and the number of violent acts committed is up 67 percent from 2016. 

In one case, Mendelson pointed out that hateful rhetoric was even used to target the Anti-Defamation League. “These actions play into a larger victimization narrative, where white Americans feel that they lost their place in society,” Mendelson said, “To them, violence is an appropriate response.”

Through Mendelson’s presentation, the audience was informed that violent propaganda is being used to fuel the hateful expression in this country, citing the Charlottesville attack. 

According to Mendelson, the “threats facing our nation are coming from anti-government and right wing extremists.” Additionally, the lone-wolf killers that are typically the ones committing this violence are “harder to track and harder to identify . . . because they’re not in groups.” 

Mendelson explains further that, “these individual actors are inspired by this ideaology and inspired to translate that ideology into action.” 

Not only has Mendelson witnessed many instances of white supremacist violence during her time with the Anti-Defamation League, but she has also testified in numerous court cases surrounding these acts while also training numerous police offices on what to look for in possible offenders. 

Despite the violence that has occurred in the United States, and specifically in California within the last year, Mendelson feels “empowered by what [she’s] doing,” and encourages students to speak out against white supremacy in response.