October Hate Crimes Watch: The Faces Behind the Numbers

University of Minnesota students Michael Dennis and Winfred Bates say they were attacked while holding hands one night in late September. Photo by Anthony Kwan.

Discussions of hate crimes often revolve around statistics and numbers, sometimes making it easy to lose sight of the human cost and the horrific nature of many of these attacks. Every month, thousands of hate crimes take place – in 2009, for example, there were an average of 11,125 violent hate crimes per month. The stories that follow, which account for only a few of the too many hate crimes that took place last month, are intended to put a face and a name to the victims of hate crimes.

  1. The Kansas U.S. Attorney’s office is considering charging two white men with a hate crime. Investigators say the men attacked a 54-year-old black man, Sterling Law, in his own home and set him on fire. The victim lived alone.
  2. In October, the University of Minnesota school newspaper reported on a student couple, both sophomores (pictured above right), who allege they were attacked by a group of 15 men while walking home and holding hands in late September. The students say the men yelled obscenities and gay slurs as they kicked and punched the couple. Because they fear for their lives, the two students no longer hold hands. They say the police have been unhelpful and unresponsive, and no one has been charged.
  3. One observation that might have gotten lost in the flurry of states enacting constitutionally questionable legislation targeting immigrants: Hate crimes against Latinos rose between 2004 and 2008, noted the Huffington Post this past month. In one particularly gruesome incident last May, a man was shot in the neck by his neighbor in front of the victim’s mother. Immediately beforehand, the perpetrator screamed and told the victim, a fifth-generation American, to “go back to Mexico.”
  4. Last month, the North Carolina State University GLBT center was vandalized. The perpetrator, whose identity is still unknown, spray-painted a homophobic slur, using the words “burn” and “die.”
  5. In New York, a man was walking his dog when he was assaulted by a stranger. The man says that over the course of 15 minutes, his attacker repeatedly pushed him and punched him and threw a leaf blower at him. At the same time, he says, his attacker yelled, “You’re my problem” and “All you Pakistanis and Indians are going to be killed! Go home!” The perpetrator has been arrested and faces charges of assault as a hate crime.
  6. A Muslim limousine driver in the Washington, D.C., area was assaulted, threatened with death, and accused of being a “jihadist,” allegedly by two of his passengers. The driver says the assault began when the passengers learned his name was Mohammed and asked if he was Muslim. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is urging the state of Maryland to charge one of the perpetrators with assault as a hate crime (the passenger is already facing other charges).
  7. On Thursday, a man pled guilty in a Lousiana federal court for shooting two Hispanic men with a shotgun, shortly after he told a bystander he wanted to “shoot some Mexicans.” The Department of Justice reports: “Gautreau admitted he then loaded ammunition into his 12-gauge shotgun, and drove off. Gautreau also admitted that, once he reached the area where four Hispanic men were fishing, he got out of his truck and fired his shotgun one time. The shotgun blast hit two of the Hispanic men, who suffered injuries that required hospitalization.” He faces up to a decade in prison.

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. Unfortunately, these are only some of the many hate crimes that take place each month.

In fact, nearly one in five hate crimes takes place on school grounds. However, we should not give up hope: You can help put an end to this injustice by supporting legislation to protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment.

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Daily.

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Noah Baron

About Noah Baron

Noah Baron is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is from Princeton Junction, NJ, and a graduate of Columbia University.

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