Hate crimes on the rise

April 25, 2017 — by David Koh

Sophomore shares his opinion on how to combat minority oppression. 

On March 5, Deep Rai, a Sikh, was cleaning his car outside of his home in Seattle when he was approached by a masked man who told him to “go back to his own country” before shooting Rai in the arm.

This incident follows a growing trend of hate crimes in the U.S. Though no comprehensive national records exist, because hate crimes are largely self-reported, cities such as New York saw a 31 percent increase in hate crimes the week after the November election from the same time in 2015. If this upwards trend in hate crimes continues, it becomes more important than ever to speak out against this kind of hatred and seek strength through community.

While we haven’t seen many hate crimes in Saratoga, they can occur almost anywhere and without warning. With the growing rates of hate crimes in the U.S., bigotry is becoming more and more prevalent across communities. Just 14 miles away from Saratoga, a hate crime was recorded at San Jose University on Nov. 11 as a man attempted to tear a hijab off the head of 19-year-old Esra Altun.

In the wake of the Rai incident, many civil rights groups as well as religious organizations have urged the police to investigate it as a hate crime. The National Sikh Campaign has launched an ad campaign to spread awareness about the group’s religion and reduce hate-motivated crimes. Our community should do the same. We shouldn’t treat these kinds of incidents as neutral or unbiased. The first step to ending hateful behavior is the recognition of these acts as more than everyday crimes.

Then it’s time for action. On Dec. 22, a video surfaced of a shopper berating a Hispanic lady in a department store in Kentucky, using the unfortunately commonplace slur of “go back to where you came from.” But instead of intervening, bystanders just stood there and acted as if the incident unfolding in front of them was non-existent.

This is problematic for a few reasons. First, it sends the victim the message that she is alone and that no one else will stand up for her. Second, it shows bigots that they can launch their verbal tirades and assaults against people without facing any consequences.

The inaction of onlookers only serves to spur bigots to spew even more hate, like the aggressor did when he began to tell people in line behind her that the victim was on welfare and that their tax money was paying for her existence. Allowing this proliferation of false information and criminalization of minority groups leads to more people adopting these incredibly harmful viewpoints against minorities.

The issue with hate-motivated crimes is that they are often the result of wrong-headed ideologies and the only way to combat them is is to expose how bankrupt they are. Many of these ideologies stem from the demonization of certain populations such as immigrants or members of the LGBTQ population.

As the hate crimes against minorities continue to make headlines, we should not consider ourselves “safe” just because of the community we live in feels that way. Instead, we should do things such as join activist movements, attend protests and try to ensure that bigotry doesn’t enter our community or any other. In the end, the best way to deal with bigoted ideologies is by proving them false.  

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