Jan 1 12

Say No to Hate Crimes

by Emily Benjamin

It has been a good few months since I’ve posted on here, but not by choice. There has been a lot to write about, and lots of photos taken – but no time to put them all together on this blog. But in one of my classes at college – that’s right, I’m at college, but more on that later! – a recent video has inspired me to get back to writing, here on my website, for all to read.

Last week, we watched a documentary called When Hate Happens Here, about community reactions to hate crimes in Northern California. The video was impactful, to say the very least. But I won’t just say the very least. I will elaborate. The video reported on five specific hate crimes in California – the brutal bashing and murder of a young transgender teen, the shooting of a loving gay couple, the burning of three synagogues, the destruction of library books related to the LGBT movement, and the burning of a cross outside the home of an African American family. In some cases, the culprits were captured and charged. Other times, justice might not have quite hit the mark – in the case of Gwen, the transgender teenager, two of the defendants were charged with second degree murder, and the other two pleaded to voluntary manslaughter, but none of the charges were given the hate crime enhancement. What the cases all had in common was the hope, togetherness and perseverance shown by communities in the face of such tragedies. Schools, workplaces, and towns united to speak out against the hate crimes, to refuse to let them happen again, and to support the families and groups affected by such violence and hostility.

But, why should it come down to the unity and togetherness of a community, after the fact? Why did the crimes happen in the first place? Hate crimes happen when a person or group targets a victim, based on the victims inclusion in a demographic or group. It could be a religious group, it could be the victim’s sexual orientation, their class, their skin colour, or even their political persuasion. If the perpetrator’s motivation was related to any of these areas, it could be considered a hate crime. But what in that perpertrator’s life led him or her to think it was ok to target another human being in such a way? How can they be so unaccepting, so intolerant, so violent? How can they possibly believe that it’s ok to inflict injuries upon someone else, purely because they think differently, feel differently, or believe differently? How dare they? Who or what are the influences in someone’s life that lead them to these actions?

At one point in the documentary, a commentator said that it wasn’t just about tolerance of different people, cultures and ideas – but it was about acceptance. Shouldn’t acceptance be considered the norm? Isn’t it is common sense, not to treat people with such hatred, such disrespect, such agression? To me, everyone should be accepted, no matter who they are, where they are, or what they believe in. If someone believes differently to you, or prefers men while you prefer women, or believes there is five gods, rather than one, or none – respect their choice, their belief, their thoughts. You don’t have to change yours, because of theirs. There is no rule book in life that says ‘everyone must think and feel the same’ – we should respect and appreciate the differences and uniqueness in societies here, and around the world.

That brings me to my travels and experiences. I have met a lot of people in the past few years. They were all amazing, in their own way, and many of them I will know for life. Some are gay, some are straight. Some have dark skin, others have light skin. Some believe in one god, some believe in none. Some speak with a strong accent, or speak very little english, while others sound just like me. Some are married, some are single, and now some are in civil unions. But these differences are beautiful. I don’t want a world where everyone thinks the same, where men can only love and marry women, or vice versa, or where we are all forced to believe in one god, one religion, one way of thinking. I want diversity, and unity. And while it may be too late for certain people in past or present generations to un-learn whatever it is that makes them believe their colour, gender, orientation or beliefs make them superior, I can only hope that in future generations, hate crimes don’t exist.

 

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Gwen_Araujo [URL] Accessed 03/09/2012
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/04/08/DDGVNC4AV61.DTL [URL] Accessed 03/09/2012

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