Hate crimes: the new politics of racism

by Amaury Nora

Americans are proud that we are people with different backgrounds, faiths, viewpoints, and personal characteristics. However, there is a recent rise in hate crimes that contradicts the American identity as a caring, diverse and inclusive society. Since 9/11, an increasingly strident message of xenophobia has seeped into both fringe and mainstream political movements. A new climate of exclusion has formed as a result of this country’s heightened anxiety against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. In this climate, violence toward those who are deemed outsiders because of their sexual orientation, gender, or disability may be less visible, but it is no less threatening.

Outside of the public view, the number of hate crimes taking place in the US is on the rise. This new climate of hate taking place in neighborhoods, educational institutions, and workplaces has made African-Americans, Latinas/os, Asian/Pacific Americans, immigrants, those with “unacceptable” gender and sexual orientations, and the disabled particular targets. Hate crimes driven by racist and other discriminatory animus are no less serious and no less pervasive, adding to everyday injustice a new constant of fear for those under threat.

Intolerance Is In
Has hatred has become hip? Whether or not intended as such, we are in the midst of a growing culture of hate. Bias crimes may be motivated by racist or religious hatred, or by discrimination because of a person’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability or some combination of these factors. Graffiti is also used to intimidate and terrorize individuals and communities. On Aug. 19, in Campbell, CA, the United Church of Christ was vandalized with hateful epithets spray-painted on both sides of a church sign with the words “Fags Go to Hell” and “God’s Rule.” Although this kind of hate crime does not receive the same amount of attention as high-profile attacks, the fact is, these types of hate crime can have a more devastating effect than other crimes because of the psychological impact it has on both the victim and the victim’s community – the perpetrator is indistinguishable from the ordinary mainstream populace.

In the same way that some young men get together on a Saturday night to hang out, certain hatemongers gather to destroy property or to bash people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, or disability. They look merely to have some fun at someone else’s expense. This was the case in Antioch, CA. Recently, two teenagers were arrested for a hate crime after they allegedly taunted a group of deaf people at a party and later attacked them. Phillip Hale, 18, and a 17-year-old boy whose name was not released attacked the 23-year-old deaf man because of his disability. The victim and witnesses told police the two teenagers approached the group in a garage and began “taunting and mimicking them, making exaggerated sign language gestures.” The pair was asked to leave but later returned with a stick, a hoe and a concrete brick, and a fight broke out.

NooseThere has been a disturbing increase recently in the use of negative stereotyping to characterize various minority groups in the United States. Due to the nature of the crime, hate crimes engender a particularly high level of psychological stress, fear, and anxiety. There is no way for potential victims to protect themselves since it is difficult or undesirable to disguise their inherent identities. Hate crimes and the resulting climate of fear and intimidation can blight all aspects of life while also disrupting the larger society. Such as the case that occurred at the University of Maryland when somebody decided to hang a noose outside the school’s black cultural center. The noose was found on the campus hanging from a tree outside UM’s Nyumburu Cultural Center, which houses the Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Black Explosion newspaper and other organizations. Just recently, it was reported that campus police believe the small noose had been hanging for about two weeks before it was found. Given the historical injustices symbolized by the noose, it not only outraged students, but it has united the students of color on campus to “fight for racial equality.”

We commit our full solidarity with the students of color on this campus in their fight for racial equality. We call on students to support affirmative action programs and the African-American studies department, all of which continue to challenge racism by identifying, developing and amplifying the voices of black students and faculty.We call on student groups and the university as a whole to support any and all actions taken by the campus community against the hate crime within the upcoming weeks.

It is hard to deny the glaring fact that there is a chilling connection between this incident and the case of the Jena 6 in Jena, LA. There seems to be a resurgence of nooses following the situation facing the Jena 6. In Warrenville, IL, it was reported that nooses, racist graffiti and other items were found inside the human resources director’s desk of Navistar International, a company that builds trucks and buses. In another incident, somebody hung a noose with an African attached to it in director’s office of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission in New Bedford, MA. The investigation is continuing.

Last month, three stage workers were fired from the Germantown Performing Arts Centre for hanging nooses from the stage riggings in Germantown, TN. The investigation into this case revealed that an employee had asked two of his co-workers if they could demonstrate to him how to tie a noose, even though he admittedly knew this particular knot is rarely used in the theater industry. It was also discovered, after the employees placed the ropes on the stage riggings, jokes were being made in reference to a “hangman’s noose” as one of the employees placed his head through one of the nooses.

The United States is a dangerous place to live for racial/ethnic minority citizens. Hate crimes pose a serious social problem in many ways, more threatening to civil society than other types of crimes. When threats go from random to constant, the likelihood of a blow becoming a beating is high, because a beating then can become a stabbing or a shooting or even worse murder. When it come to race or gender, there is a tendency for hate crimes to be excessively brutal.

Recently, in Chicago, Du Doan, a 62 year-old Vietnamese man was apparently pushed into Lake Michigan and subsequently drowned. According to the forum on Chicagoland Fishing, Du was fishing alone off Chicago’s Montrose Harbor when a group of individuals, 4 males and 1 female, walked up Du and pushed him into the water and then turned around and started laughing as they walked away. Du, who couldn’t swim, quickly drowned.

This was the third incident since late July in which fishermen who appeared to be Asian were targeted in the area. The Chicago Police do have the some suspects in custody after 3 of them turned themselves in. John Haley, 31, is charged with the murder of Du Doan and is also charged with aggravated battery for a similar incident on July 31 in which he shoved another man at the same location. His friends, told police that Haley was laughing and bragging about pushing the man into the harbor. Shortly before the group approached Doan, another fisherman of Asian descent was confronted by the same group. A former marine, the fisherman stood his ground, and the group left him alone after spitting at his feet.

Prior to that day, on July 31, Haley was drinking with friends when he asked a fisherman for a lighter. After the two men had a conversation with the fishermen, Haley stuck him in the back of the head and pushed him into the water. The man was able to swim to safety.

Investigators have said they found no evidence to indicate the murder was racially motivated even though each victim happened to be Asian. Police told reporters that Haley did not use racial “epithets during the event”, which is evidence this was a “senseless” murder.

It is not surprising that crime was changed from a hate crime to a random act of “senseless” and “out-of-control” murder, since Asian Americans are the most proportionally under-represented racial/ethnic group in American politics and media. Nevertheless, the horrific crime is no less alarming because the victims were of Asian decent or had Asian features.

Racism in America is a cancer that has feasted on the very soul of this country. For all the alleged gains in equity, racism has finally reared its ugly head again. Attacks motivated by gender bias instill a fear in their intended victims that not only threatens their lives, but also can restrict where they work, study, travel, and live. Such crimes are particularly insidious because they target individuals for who they are and thus put victims at risk at all times and in any situation.

Hate Crime SuspectsOn Monday, I was informed of an article in the San Francisco Gate about the growing epidemic of hate crimes against women. In Charleston, West Virginia, six people are under arrest after an African American woman was lured to a home over the Internet and was she was savagery beaten, sexually abused, and humiliated at the hands of her white abductors for a week.

Megan Williams, 23, was freed Saturday after cops responded to the home of Frankie Brewster for a “welfare check on a female that was reportedly being held against her will.” When cops arrived, Brewster claimed she was the only one home, but then the victim limped to the door with her arms stretched out and said, “Help me.” According to the criminal complaints, Megan, had been stabbed four times in her left leg and had been repeatedly sexually assaulted and humiliated. (Warning: the text contains graphic detail of the heinous crime)

According to the criminal complaint, Megan stated that she was forced to “lick the toes, vagina and anal cavity” of one of the female abductors, Frankie. She also stated that Frankie threatened to kill her if she was to stop. Megan also stated that Brewster’s son Bobby had forced her to eat rat and dog feces, lick up blood, and drink from the toilet Megan also stated that it was Danny Combs who held her at knifepoint as she was forced to perform oral sex, and he also had raped her at knifepoint. Megan also had been choked with a cable cord and her hair cut by Karen Burton, another female abductor. During her ordeal, as Karen cut Megan’s ankle with a knife she told her, “This what we do to N* around here.” In one of the criminal complaint, it stated she doused with “hot water while being sexually assaulted.”

The six accused, ranging in age from 20 to 49, are facing a long list of charges, including kidnapping, sex assault, and battery. Two others are still being sought. According to The Associated Press, authorities won’t pursue hate crime charges in the case. Despite strong evidence suggesting just the opposite.

Reason Why New Hate Crime Bill Should be Pass
At the root of hate are radical ideologies, radical religious beliefs and pent-up anger and frustration, all of which can lead to violent acts ranging from hate crimes to terrorism. As much as we like to belief extremists live beyond America’s shores, the truth is, some of those dangers originate within our own borders, and multitudes of homegrown haters exist with beliefs that are equally dangerous.

What makes individuals hate, and what makes some act on that hate while others would not? Why is hate of the other so often denied by those who practice it, but justified in the next breath as love of self? In the political world, hate only seems to come up when a leader says something embarrassing, or one party or the other is accused of playing the “race card.” The truth is, hate crimes function to maintain the status quo; they protect the people in charge, the men and women who are responsible for making important decisions at the highest levels of society. Blame tends to move away from the top, minimizing the possibility that profound changes could ever occur.

The winds of race hatred are blowing toward those who desire a more just, multi-political America. What we are witnessing today is the out of control and barbaric behaviors of whole societies that have been infected with ideologies that encourage and demand dysfunctional behaviors. By design, these behaviors are meant to intimidate and threaten.

Threats and violence against ordinary people who stand out as being different from their neighbors only serves to divide Americans against each other and cause immeasurable harm to whole societies. These are indeed extraordinary times. As progressives must collaborate with each other and demand that our leaders be responsive to the needs of the masses. Hate crimes require a strong response from the entire community, but law enforcement must be willing to do their part. It is vital to reassure people that hate crimes are not condoned by our government or by other communities of people.

x-posted on Para Justicia y Libertad

Categories: Race/Gender

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7 replies »

  1. In the military too. From a New York Times article:

    “A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed

  2. ERocha said: “Threats and violence against ordinary people who stand out as being different from their neighbors only serves to divide Americans against each other and cause immeasurable harm to whole societies.”

    One would think that a country which has suffered through a horrific civil war, as the US has, would have learned from it. Yet we seem doomed to prove Santayana’s dictum – that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them….

  3. All crime comes from hate. Inhuman treatment of others is something all individuals are capable of.

    One day I hope people stop being obsessed by race.

  4. Um, IIRC, most crimes are motivated by economics or passion (of which hate is only one variety).

    Care to explain how stealing food to survive comes from hate?

  5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/if/4102371.stm

    My apologies.

    I will restate my belief which is that MOST criminal aggressive assault towards another human involves hate.

    Stealing food in order to survive is not something that Westerners suffer from too much (due to social policies of one type or another) because we are not starving, most have rooves over their heads etc etc.

    That hungry belly is usually found in listless children with their ragged mothers in extremely poor Third World countries. The physically fit and able have long since fled to find better prospects elsewhere…

    Rudeness in general, aggressiveness, disrespect, stealing, street violence, targeting the vulnerable, etc etc are on the rise. People are rougher and rougher.

    Seeds of hatred are jealousy and coveting. A doesn’t have something. A wants it. A festers. A hates. A takes.