Monthly, if not weekly, we read about a devastating mass shooting or another form of hate crime. The latest incident occurred in D.C. in connection to an anti-gay beating over the weekend. Earlier in the month, an Ames, Iowa man pled guilty to hate crime charges after he burned a pride banner hanging outside a church. In May, a Detroit man was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of assault with intent to murder, and five counts of using a firearm in connection with a felony. He is accused of targeting the victims because they were gay and transgender. The son of a Louisiana sheriff’s deputy is facing federal hate crime charges in connection with three fires that destroyed African American churches earlier this year.
The number of hate groups in America rose to a record 1,020 in 2018, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors domestic hate groups and extremists. It marks the fourth straight year of hate-group growth — a 30 percent increase since 2016 after three years of decline — the organization says. This rising rate provides ample evidence that violent intolerance against African Americans, Muslims, and other immigrants, and the LBGTQ+ community is still prevalent in our society. Yet, as the numbers reach new heights, most of us stay silent.
In the words of Desmond Tutu, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Or, the words of British statesman Edward Burke who said: “The only thing necessary for the spread of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
Hate crimes against minority communities are a national problem, and one that needs to be addressed. You don’t have to be black to believe that black lives matter, any more than you have to be Muslim to believe Muslim lives matter or gay to believe that LBGTQ lives matter. “Black Lives Matter” does not identify or proclaim the virtues or wrongdoings of any specific social identity. It is an outcry for equal rights – for all people.
One thing we often forget is that when people feel emboldened to act out and target minorities, no one is immune. Stricter laws enabling perpetrators to be prosecuted for hate crimes is a start, but we all must do better. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels — stay vigilant and consistent in pushing back on hate. Ignoring the problem only means it will continue to grow and spread, eventually, becoming so powerful that the evil wins. I doubt that is what any of you wish for; it certainly is not the America I want for my children and grandchildren.
If you are passionate about justice or love political and courtroom intrigue with compelling and convincing characters, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my second novel, “Betrayal of Justice,” available through most online booksellers. It is intended to open one’s eyes and mind to the hate and prejudices that lurk in our own backyards.