Trying to make sense of the senseless, many are asking what precipitated the murders of three people outside a Jewish retirement facility and community center in America's heartland. The question begs an excuse for an act so heinous that there is none, and it reveals how little we understand about hate crimes and those who carry them out. Only when these crimes hit close to home do we begin to pay attention to them.
What makes this latest crime different than other mass shooting incidents is that the killer is a prominent 73-year-old white supremacist whom the FBI has followed for decades. This time he ambushed and gunned down a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather, and a woman visiting her mother in the assisted living center. Ironically, none of the three was Jewish.
Let this be a wake-up call heard across the land. If one of us is not safe, none of us is safe. We must help people recognize hate crimes when they see them, make it easy to report these crimes to local police departments, and change attitudes to reduce violence and prejudice. Those who choose to do nothing and bear silent witness to hate crimes have blood on their hands as sure the shooters.