Friday, February 5, 2010

Letter 1/100: A hate crime's a hate crime no matter how small

February 5, 2010

Dear President Obama,
First of all, let me just say I'm not a fairweather fan. I would vote for you a million times again given as many redos in my life. I understand why things aren't getting done like people wanted them to, but I'll address that in a later letter.
I'm not going to lead into this nicely, Mr. Obama, because I feel we need it straight. Why don't we punish those who commit hate crimes? Yes, I know. On the surface we do. We would jail a white supremacist who punches a black man on his way home from work. Or the Brooklyn businessman who spray paints disturbing messages on the Jewish guy's home. We rightly imprison those responsible for Laramie. Wichita.
But a hate crime doesn't just occur when somebody gets punched or property is damaged. The college kid who comes home from a party crying because he was harassed has experienced a hate crime. The muslim guy who can't get the towelhead jokes out of his head when he gets home from work has witnessed a hate crime. Physical violence is such a small part of a hate agenda. Speaking up about the words that hurt can prevent the drastic events that occur because of bigotry! Forget sticks and stones, words cut deeper.
My guess is people like Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson didn't suddenly begin to hate gay people when they met Matthew Shepard one night. Maybe their friends had heard them gay bashing. Maybe they had yelled hateful things to a homosexual at a party. So why aren't we reporting crimes like that? Because we've been conditioned to "brush it off." The sticks and stones mentality is engrained so deeply into us.
Believe me, I am a big believer in rising above. But it's not lowering yourself to speak out about things you hear. Even just standing up for yourself in your group of friends. Prejudices exist even when we don't want to believe they do. If something bothers you, SPEAK.
This is where you come in, Mr. Obama. Can we please raise the issue of post 9-11 hate crimes? Can we get a forum to talk about this? People push away what they don't understand and believe me, as a college student, I witness just how much these people DON'T UNDERSTAND. Crimes don't have to be sensational. They don't even have to occur between enemies. Let's make it understood that we're first and foremost HUMAN. Gay, lesbian, muslim, sikh, black, white, european, asian. Nobody is left out of hate. So let's make it okay to talk, Mr. President.