By Gurbir Grewal and Rachel Wainer Apter
At last week’s presidential debate, when it seemed that the nation had exhausted its capacity for shock, President Trump hit another height in racist rhetoric, refusing to condemn white supremacy while urging far-right extremists to “stand back and stand by.” As the top officials responsible for enforcing the civil rights laws of New Jersey — one of the most populous and diverse states in the country — we have seen firsthand how the president’s push to normalize bias has led to a rising tide of hate and violence in our state.
Since 2015, the number of bias incidents being reported to law enforcement in New Jersey has skyrocketed. There were 367 reported incidents in 2015, compared to 994 in 2019 — a 170% increase. And this isn’t a problem limited to older generations — fully 46% of bias offenders were younger than 18 years old, a loud alarm that New Jersey’s diversity is not translating to tolerance in its schools.
Every one of these bias incidents is an affront to our values. Each represents a target on the back of a fellow American or resident based only on what they look like, where they come from, how they worship, or who they love. All too often, a bias incident not only traumatizes an individual but also terrorizes entire communities, as when two attackers fueled by hate planned a shootout at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, ultimately killing several of our fellow New Jerseyans, including a police officer.
The Trump administration has shown that it is disinterested in fighting discrimination, so in New Jersey, we decided it was time to step up and take aggressive action ourselves. Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy created a task force to address the dramatic increase in