April Hate Crimes Watch: Real Victims
Every month, I try to recount some of the stories of hate crime victims as a way of putting faces and names to the hate crime statistics. The five stories covered in this post are only a few of the all too many hate crimes which took place in the last month and occur on a regular basis. Although upsetting to read, they give us a better picture of what the numbers we hear so often mentioned mean in terms of human cost.
- The Department of Justice is prosecuting two men for allegedly luring a gay man, Kevin Pennington, into a pickup truck, driving him out to an isolated area and beating him as two women cheered the beating. The individuals involved are the first to be prosecutedunder the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act of 2009 for a hate crime based on a victim’s sexual orientation.
- Late last month, hate crimes charges were brought against a black teenager who police say attacked and violently beat a 19-year-old white victim. The teenager claims he attacked the victim because he was upset about the killing of Travyon Martin. Although ethnic and racial minorities – rather than whites – tend to be the victims of hate crimes, hate crimes laws protect all Americans from identity-based violence.
- A transgender woman was murdered last month in what friends say was a hate crime. The woman, Brandy Martell, was a long-time transgender rights activist. A witness claims that the victim was speaking to “one or two men” from her car at around 5:15 a.m. when “one of the men became angry and fired into the car where Martell was sitting.” Police are investigating.
- Police say two white suspects have confessed to an early-April shooting spree in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which five black men – three of whom are now dead – were shot. The suspects have entered pleas of “not guilty” on the charges of first-degree murder, shooting with the intention to kill and malicious harassment, which is the state’s equivalent of a hate crime.
- A gay Illinois State University college student claims that the brutal attack he survived was motivated by anti-gay bias. The student says he was walking when someone knocked his cell phone out of his hand and between six and eight men started beating him, calling him a “fag” and saying they were going to kill him. He was left bleeding on the ground. As of last week, the police had no suspects.
What can I do?
These events are horrifying. It is deeply upsetting that some people can so thoroughly lose sight of the Divine spark in others that they could bring themselves to commit these acts. Yet crimes like these take place every day.
Nineteen states still do not have laws that protect lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals against hate crimes, and 22 states have no laws to protect transgender people against hate crimes. Contact your state representatives and urge them to pass inclusive hate crimes legislation today.