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Knockout Games -- The Biggest Form of Cowardice

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When a 78-year-old Jewish woman was walking down the street in Brooklyn earlier this month, the last thing she expected was to be punched in the face. Tragically, that's exactly what happened. The elderly woman was apparently the victim of what authorities are calling a "knockout game" -- where, according to police, an attacker or attackers aim to knock out a person with a single sucker punch. It is an alarming trend that is spurring outrageous incidents across the country. It is deplorable, reprehensible and inexcusable. It is insane thuggery, and it is unequivocally wrong. These kids are targeting innocent people, and in many cases specifically targeting Jewish folks. We would not be silent if it were the other way around, and we will not be silent now. This behavior is racist, period. And we will not tolerate it.

Several of these "knockout" incidents have already been reported in New York, and around the country. Many of the New York victims appear to be members of the Jewish community, but even in cases where race/ethnicity/religion aren't factors, it is still unconscionable. As I often state, no one -- black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, male, female, the elderly, children, gay, straight or anyone else -- should ever fear walking down the street. We live in a free and open society, but we also live in a nation where laws protect us from such vicious behavior. A 28-year-old Brooklyn resident was recently arrested for allegedly punching a 24-year-old in a reported "knockout" occurrence. We encourage police to thoroughly investigate each and every case, and bring these perpetrators to justice.

There is nothing funny or even remotely entertaining about attacking innocents walking down the street. This is not a "game"; it is inhumane behavior that has no place in our country or the world. When you start condoning it and you start to act like there's something funny about these types of actions, you set up the kind of crisis that leads to the demise of everyone. Diversity is one of the greatest strengths of this nation, and we must respect one another in a way that preserves and further develops this diversity. Therefore, when an injustice happens to anyone, it is the duty of all to speak up. Silence is akin to tacit acceptance.

This week, I will be meeting with other leaders to address our next moves regarding this crisis. As one who has fought for greater civil rights for all, I cannot watch this travesty unfold. We can discuss the many factors that may lead to this sort of destructive behavior, whether it be poverty, unemployment, etc., but at the end of the day, there is no excuse ever to bestow violence on others. There is no justification for brutally punching or attacking a person in this manner. These kids must be held accountable, and then they must receive the right guidance and mentorship to halt any further damage. In our own communities, we must work harder to spot disastrous behavior and intervene before anything horrific like these attacks take place. All of us need to push for better schools, job opportunities, after-school programs, recreation/community centers and more.

In my own life, I faced many challenges growing up. But as I watched my single mother scrub floors in order to support us, never once did I resort to violence or the type of thuggery we have witnessed in these cases. There simply is no excuse for it. Knocking out unsuspecting defenseless people, like that 78-year-old woman in Brooklyn, is the greatest form of cowardice. Each and every one of us should be disgusted and outraged by this. The only way we can continue on a path towards progress is when we raise our voices whenever and wherever injustice takes place.

And a grave injustice has undoubtedly befallen that elderly woman and the other reported victims of "knockout." It is our duty to stand up.