Leo Frank’s was one of countless lives lost to the bigotry and racism that plagued the country at the time, when all too frequently a life was taken solely because of what someone believed or the color of their skin.
At a memorial for Frank in Glendale this week, local elected officials and community members highlighted the strides made since then.
“Jews in America can now live lives Jews in 1915 could only have dreamt about,” said Evan Bernstein of the Anti-Defamation League, which was founded shortly after Frank’s murder, at Monday’s memorial.
And while it’s important not to discount this considerable headway our country has made in the past decades towards tolerance, if the unrest of the past year has demonstrated anything, it’s how important it is not to misunderstand this progress as victory.
Bigotry is still very much alive and well in our country, and even in our city, with hate crimes up 9 percent thus far this year over last, and anti-Semitic hate crimes increasing by 24 percent.
New York City is one of the world’s most progressive and diverse cities, but we cannot allow the strides we’ve made to cloud the steps that still need to be taken.
Black men still lose their lives solely because of the color of their skin, albeit in more difficult ways to criminally persecute than in the Jim Crow South. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, New York City’s school system has become the nation’s most segregated, recent studies show.
We must continuously work to educate ourselves, and our young and old alike, pressure out politicians to enact legislation that provides more opportunities to the historically underserved.
And we must never forget the countless lives that were cut short as Leo Frank’s was, whose deaths will only be in vain when they evaporate from memory.