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March 30, 2022

The Needham Human Rights Committee strongly condemns the war in Ukraine and hopes for a swift end to the senseless violence that is being perpetrated against Ukrainian citizens.

Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this upheaval is that anti-Russian bias is appearing in our community and region. Biases – whether unintentional or not – are based on stereotypes that lead to rash decisions or discriminatory practices against people of a particular ethnicity, gender, race or social group. Social media and news reports are encouraging their neighbors to take negative action toward anyone who is “Russian” or affiliated with “Russians”, such as boycotting businesses that sell Russian products, initiating bans against Russian arts and culture, or targeting Russians living in local communities.

Our State officials have cautioned that biases or unsupported assumptions can be harmful, such as “shutting down some Russian immigrant family that’s been here in Massachusetts for years and runs a business that may have some sort of Russian overtone.” Anti-Russian bias in the media affects children, who according to studies develop biases at a surprisingly young age. A NHRC colleague who immigrated to Needham from Syria gave a striking example of how her children were approached by classmates who asked them “Do you belong to ISIS?”

As your Human Rights Committee, our work aims to build bridges of understanding as we advocate for the human rights of all in our town. During this troubling and uncertain time, we are guided by the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.