Students form campus group to address hate crimes

GW student groups hosted United Against Hate, a forum featuring several community leaders, to focus on preventative measures and solutions to the problem of hate crimes Tuesday.

The idea of hate violence – to be selected out for violence for who you are – in the year 2000 is outrageous, said Michael Leiberman, legal counsel for the Anti-Defamation League.

The D.C. Superior Court last month sentenced a Georgetown student to 18 months of probation for allegedly vandalizing a Jewish menorah on campus Dec. 11.

Speakers alluded to nationally recognized hate crimes that have occurred in recent years, including the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and murdered in 1998.

We find ourselves in the year 2000 with the need once again for anti-lynching legislation, said Hillary Shelton, chief lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and director of the organization’s Washington bureau. We’ve got to be clear that we won’t allow this on our hearts.

Speakers also explored the origins of racism.

Hate doesn’t take root where there’s not an environment for it, said Aryani Ong, staff attorney for the Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium. Hate groups may not be in your backyard, but hate grows everywhere.

Hussein Ibish, communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, addressed two areas of pervasive Arab discrimination: media and the government.

Have you noticed gas prices going up? he asked. Every time gas prices go up 10 cents, we get more calls to our office about Arabs getting beaten up.

Sophomore Mira Katz conceived of the event two months ago. A member of the Jewish Students Association and Hillel, Katz said she hoped to increase awareness at GW about hate crimes.

David Portnoy, vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union at GW, said he hoped the event would lead to a heightened awareness of the bigotry on campuses, no matter how rarely seen.

According to UPD statistics, no hate crimes were reported to UPD on either GW campus in 1998.

We are lucky we have not been hit with the hate crimes (occurring) around the area, Katz said.

In addition to the Georgetown incident, the University of Maryland experienced a rash of racial threats of violence to black student leaders and officials on the College Park campus in November 1999.

The campus groups who planned the event formed a new group entitled United Against Hate, which will continue the work begun by the open forum Tuesday, Katz said.

Several speakers concluded the night by offering suggestions on how to combat racism as college students.

Every single one of you should check whether your congressman is a co-sponsor for the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and how they (voted), Leiberman said.

Hector Vargas, state legislative lawyer for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, urged students to work on the Campus Security Act, which requires universities to disclose hate crime statistics.

Other speakers offered broader advice.

Build more coalitions on campus . teach each other how to dissect what is being submitted to you so you don’t accept (hate), even unconsciously, Shelton said.

You are not powerless, Ibish said. The old model of dealing with media is dead . (Now) they talk to you, and you can talk back to them.

Karen Krantweiss, Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow for GW Hillel, said one of the best aspects of working on the project was the connection made among the diverse student groups.

We became such wonderful friends, Krantweiss said. It starts so simply.

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