Rise in Hate Crimes Should Appall Us All Equally : Intolerance: Attacks based on color, lifestyle or religion must be universally condemned<i> .</i>
“It is to the point that I don’t even go out in the front yard anymore because I don’t want these nuts to see where someone ‘nonwhite’ lives.”
This heart-wrenching cry for help came in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County by an Asian-American Cypress resident. She is worried about her safety because she believes a neo-Nazi skinhead lives in her neighborhood. Her distress is ADL’s concern. It should be yours as well.
Skinheads have become much more violent, committing 22 murders in the past three years and thousands of beatings, stabbings, shootings and synagogue desecrations around the country. In a desperate attempt to revive their movement, racist extremists have been recruiting skinheads at Orange County public schools to serve as their “front-line warriors,” with plans to commit violent attacks.
Meanwhile, the Human Relations Commission reported that hate crimes in Orange County increased a whopping 50% in 1992. Over three-quarters of these attacks and acts of harassment were against African-Americans, Asian-Americans, gays and lesbians and Jews, even though together these groups represent a small percentage of the county population. In all of these incidents, the victims were targeted solely because of their skin color, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.
However, despite these troubling signs, there is reason to be hopeful. Membership in the organized hate movement has been decreasing in part due to a series of judgments against them for illegal and violent activities. Here in Orange County skinhead membership has been thwarted by a $12.5-million judgment against former KKK leader Tom Metzger for inciting skinheads to fatally beat an African-American man in Portland. Metzger’s struggle to pay this massive fine to the victim’s family is hampering his efforts to sell hate to Orange County youngsters.
Last month, the court upheld California’s hate crime statute. This statute, which was developed from model hate-crime legislation drafted by the ADL, stiffens the sentences for those who commit a crime out of hate for another’s background. There are now efforts underway to create a federal statute.
However, it is not just the courts and law enforcement officials that are stopping the growth of the hate movement. Many community leaders, institutions and the general public have voiced their disdain for any efforts to pull apart the multicolored fabric of society. This strong response from politicians, religious leaders and school principals helps cleanse our community of prejudice and discrimination. Some have even taken the added step of implementing diversity training programs at their institutions, schools and workplaces. Such programs, like ADL’s “A World of Difference” project do not provide formulas for stopping hate or pass judgment on people’s attitudes, they simply encourage us to talk and learn about our differences.
The Cypress letter writer is keeping her identity concealed because she is not convinced that the community will come to her defense. We must show her that she has our support by continuing to condemn bigotry whenever it rears its ugly head. To ignore bigotry is to condone it.