Hate Crimes Summit Addresses Increased Violations
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October 2, 2009 – Ethnic groups are targeted by white supremacy groups in East County. The editors discuss possible reasons for the about 30 percent increase in hate crimes.
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Gloria Penner: Yesterday marked the second annual Hate Crimes Summit by the Coalition United for a Hate-Free San Diego. It was prompted by incidents of hate crimes in the East County. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate crimes are increasing nationally. So Miriam, what is known about the groups or individuals that commit these kinds of crimes in East County? Miriam : In East County, of course we have various, various factors, but one that is among the most serious is the Aryan Nations, the White Supremacist movement out there, which is very racist. And we have had incidences of just horrific beatings of African-Americans and Latinos –gays as well. But, particularly, there's been things with there were Nazi swastikas sprayed on where there were threats of lynchings made, where there were people beaten badly enough to have to have reconstructive surgery. And in some cases, no charges have yet been filed. Penner: The numbers indicate, Alisa, that these cases are increasing. Miriam earlier gave me a number of up 32 percent. Why would they be increasing now? What is it that's going on? Alisa: It's tied to a couple of things. It's been tied very much to what we have been talking about. The increased poverty, increased unemployment, the kind of hopelessness desperation and anger and resentment that those kinds of things can breed in any group of people. And I think that people look at any other group and they see that as a scapegoat. I think people see new ethnic groups that are coming in and perhaps getting jobs that whites used to have. Whether it be construction or whatever it is. I think that there's an anger and a resentment that's fueled by poverty that does not see a solution to itself. That's one, another one, the experts say, unfortunately, is the election of an African-American president. And so that you have a man in office up there, I think that it directly challenges apparently, a lot of white American sense of, the order of things. Penner: And there is a lot of rabblerousing going on talk radio and particularly you have the so-called "shock jocks" who really do preach this kind of thing. What kind of response are we getting, let's say from law enforcement or from city officials, or from school officials? Miriam: Many of them are trying very hard. And they have implemented some tolerance programs in the schools and certainly the sheriffs are receiving training in how to identify hate crimes. That said, it does not seem to be enough in many cases. Part of the problem, Gloria, is that the victims of this, and the witnesses, are often living in fear. They are silenced. I've heard case after case, where people knew things, witness things, but they were afraid to come forward. And, I interviewed a woman last night who did come forward. Her son is the victim of an apparent hate crime, severely beaten. And she is speaking out. I asked her, have you had any threats, and she has not. I think people need to be a little braver about coming forward when this happens. Silence in complicity. Penner: But what about what Alisa was talking about, the election of an African-American president. Do you think that has also empowered groups like the white supremacist? Miriam: Absolutely. The other thing that is frightening. They are getting more sophisticated and are using the Internet to recruit people. They are on Facebook and Myspace and they are actually actively recruiting in the schools now, with things like skinhead music. They are giving out CDs to kids after school. They are recruiting girls as well as boys, underage kids. Alisa: The thing I find troubling is that, I've covered these issues in the past and you look at white supremacist or hate groups, they are demonizing, Aryan nation, some kind of off –fringe element from the past. It almost seems as with Barack Obama in the Whitehouse that this kind of thing is becoming more mainstream. Whether it be Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or one of these conservative, white talk show hosts, who I think feed into this. I have to say that I have been shocked in my own personal life by talking to people here in San Diego, by people who have said, not in jest, very racist comments about Barack Obama and his wife that I'm astounded that they make this impolite conversation. Penner: Well, on that kind of sad note, I thank you Alisa Joyce Barba and Miriam Raftery