February Hate Crimes Watch: The Faces Behind the Violence

March 12, 2012Noah Baron

In 2009, there was an average of 11,125 violent hate crime attacks per month. But when considering the issue of hate crimes as a matter of public policy, it is easy to lose oneself in the statistics and forget about the very real people who are impacted. The three 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. I hope the following stories, however, will be able to put faces, and names, to some of the thousands of Americans who are targeted merely for being themselves.

  • Earlier this month, a 20-year-old Maryland man pled guilty to hanging a dead raccoon from a noose on the porch of an African-American family’s home. In his plea, he admitted that he and four others had planned to hang the raccoon in order to frighten them into leaving the neighborhood. The raccoon was hung from the porch in the middle of the night, and found by the family the next morning. Even though this act was not technically a hate crime, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez was correct in calling it one of the “acts of hate to intimidate someone because of their race [that] still occur in this day.”
  • A gay Oklahoma teenager was brutally beaten in an attack at a party he was attending in early February. The 18-year-old attempted to intervene in an altercation in which a number of men were asked to leave the party for using anti-gay slurs. As he tried to step in, the other men threw him to the ground and beat him to the point where he lost consciousness, as they continued to shout anti-gay slurs. Because Oklahoma is one of 19 states that do not protect lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals against hate crimes, this attack was classified as a simple assault.
  • In mid-February, a lesbian college student was allegedly assaulted by a football player who shouted homophobic slurs and left her with a head injury and little memory of the incident. According to her roommate, who was there at the time of the attack, the football player picked her up by her waist and slammed her into the ground. The student is currently recovering from a fractured skull and a bleeding ear in the Intensive Care Unit at a nearby hospital. The football player has been suspended from the team and is scheduled to appear in court in April; it is not clear whether hate crimes charges will be filed.

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. Image courtesy of Cody Rogers.

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