Hate crimes panel tackles intolerance, violence
While memories of the racial incidents in the pub and the ideological discrimination of the College Republicans lingered in students' minds, the aptly-timed Hate Crimes Panel set out to discuss violence and tolerance in society.
Hari Kondabolu '04, Anjali Dotson '04, and Sam Terry '04 organized the Hate Crimes Panel as part of their Global Conscious Lecture.
The three panelists, Doug Calvin, Preetmohan Singh, and Stephen Wessler are all experts on Hate Crimes and have had different experiences personally and professionally with the issue.
The panel was quite timely because it directly responded to questions about the definition of a hate crime. Dan Schuberth, President of the College Republicans, claimed the posting of anti-Republican, Hitler Youth posters that were displayed before spring break and implicated him as a Nazi was a hate crime.
The panelists addressed this issue and clearly showed that though what happened was an act of intolerance and was unacceptable, the fact that violence against him would not have likely resulted from the posters meant it was not an example of a 'hate crime,'" Kondabolu said.
First to speak was Preetmohan Singh, Director of the Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART) in Washington, DC. SMART is the oldest national Sikh American advocacy group and strives to protect the rights of Sikhs through legislative advocacy, public education, and legal assistance, along with ensuring the accurate portrayal of the Sikh religion.
Singh talked about Sikhs being targeted after 9/11 solely because they wear turbans. He pointed to the brutal shooting of a 49-year-old Arizona Sikh man four days after 9/11. Although Sikhism and Islam are different religions, many people group the religions together out of ignorance.
Singh gave the audience ideas of how they could help prevent hate crimes. He pointed out that students can advocate for legislature that would require mandatory training of law enforcement for how to address hate crimes-a service Maine is currently lacking.
At the federal level, Singh suggested students write letters in support of a pending bill, the Local Law Enforcement Harassment Act, which would give more resources to law enforcement agencies to prosecute and investigate hate crimes.
Doug Calvin, Founding Director of the Youth Leadership Support Network (YLSN) spoke next. Also, based in Washington, DC, the YSLN is an education and training organization
Since 1990, Calvin has monitored and infiltrated white supremacist and hate groups in the Mid-Atlantic and provided resources and organized workshops for community groups.
Calvin showed slides of white power groups' demonstrations and rallies. He pointed out that many neo-Nazis would even go to peace marches and mingle.
Most of the funding for hate groups comes from record companies and video game production companies. Resistance Records, making money through mail order CD sales, funds the largest national white power group. Ethnic warfare is a video game that also uses its profits to fund hate groups. The groups are more easily accessible than some people think, Calvin said.
Finally, Stephen Wessler, Director of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence (CPHV) at the University of Southern Maine, spoke.
The Center creates courses in schools, colleges, and communities to prevent bias, prejudice, harassment, and violence. It also supports writing and teaching on issues relating to bias-motivated violence.
Wessler talked about how hate crimes don't have any kind of geographic or socioeconomic boundaries. From his work, he has found that most hate crimes occurring in schools were escalating acts of hatred or jokes that nobody challenged. He attributed the phenomenon of unreported hate crimes (based on the shockingly low numbers of reported hate crimes to the FBI) to immigrants and other refugees who are worried about the threat of detainment or deportation.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Wessler found that the anxiety of Arab and Muslim Americans has actually increased in 2003 in comparison to their feelings in 2001. "After 9/11, the federal government secretly detained and then deported 1,100 Muslims...-some people think if it's OK for the U.S. to target Muslims then it must be OK for us to do it too," Wessler said.
The panelists also said during the question and answer period that most anti-hate amendments would have been passed a decade ago if other minorities had left behind gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues. The women's, disabled, and civil rights movements have all made significant progress in comparison to the gay/lesbian/bi-sexual movement.
Calvin, Wessler and Singh praised Bowdoin for addressing the diversity issue on campus, but Singh also added, "Don't let the discussion end with two or three meetings and a couple newspaper articles. Some people in the majority are not used to and are not comfortable with talking about race, but it is important to keep the dialogue alive."
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