By Qudsia Jafree
Advocacy & Policy Manager of Health and Safety, YWCA USA
Hate crimes are committed when a perpetrator intentionally selects and commits a crime towards someone based on actual or perceived membership in a particular group, usually defined by race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, gender identity or sexual orientation. Current federal laws make it a crime to commit bias-motivated acts against individuals or property. Hate crimes not only cause direct harm to the victim, but have an intimidating and isolating impact on the larger community than targeted originally.
However, not all hate crimes are recognized to be so. In August of 2012, six members of a Sikh Temple and a police officer on call were gunned down by a white supremacist that stormed the building. Hapreet Singh Saini, 18, lost his mother in the incident, only to realize that her death would not be counted as a hate crime against Sikhs because the FBI had no way to categorize that in their data tracking method. In a moving statement before the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights following the shooting, Saini expressed his grief for his mother in these simple yet profound words: “I want to give my mother the dignity of becoming a statistic.”
In an attempt to capture backlash targeting the Muslim and South Asian communities post-9/11, which had increased 1,600% in the months following the attacks, the FBI did not distinguish between particular subsets of the South Asian ethnic or religious communities when tracking incidences of hate crimes. 13 years later, we have seen countless deaths, beatings, assaults, and defacing of religious centers targeting the Sikh community.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI announced that it would begin tracking hate crimes against 7 new subgroups: Sikhs, Hindus, Arabs, Mormons, Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Orthodox Christians. Through their persistence, grassroots organizing and careful documentation of incidents across the country, the Sikh community was able to successfully advocate for the inclusion of Sikhs as a separate category for the purposes of documenting and investigating hate crimes.
And, just this week, the son of the murdered Temple leader, Amardeep Kaleka, announced his candidacy for a Congressional seat in his district. Fueled by the death of his father and fellow congregants, Kaleka’s platform focuses on gun control legislation and the current U.S. budget crisis and government shutdown. While Kaleka faces an uphill battle, challenging incumbent Rep. Paul Ryan, his tenacity to run, his desire to challenge the status quo, and his resolved to take a bold stance against violence that impacted him so personally is more than admirable.
What steps can YOU take to end violence in YOUR community?
- Share your thoughts in the comments below, or participate in our blog carnival.
- Find your local YWCA and learn about ways to get involved.
- Learn more about the prevalence of hate crimes and share this information with at least 5 friends.
Learn More (And Pass It On!)
- YWCA Fact Sheet: Hate Crimes
- FBI Uniform Crime Reports
- Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Combatting Hate
- Human Rights Campaign (HRC): Hate Crimes
- The Persistence of Discriminatory Profiling Based on Race, Ethnicity, Religion, National Origin, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in the United States
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