09/17/2012: On Aug. 5, six worshipers at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin were killed by a white supremacist. Days later, a transgendered woman was stabbed to death in Washington, DC because of her sexual orientation. No one has been arrested for her murder. In January, two people were sent to prison in New Mexico because they beat up a developmentally challenged Navajo man, drew KKK and white power symbols on his body, and branded him with a swastika.
The inhumane beating and branding of the Navajo man,and the senseless deaths of the Sikh worshippers and the transgendered woman, are only a few of the hate crimes committed in the United States this year. In addition to these oft-reported incidents, thousands of others have experienced violent assaults motivated by racism, religious intolerance, sexism, ableism, gender identity, sexual orientation, or immigration status.
It is time for our national leaders to address the increasing number of hate crimes and hate groups in America.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups in America have grown by 60% since 2000 to more than one thousand. Since August, approximately 10 Islamic institutions and Muslim communities in seven states have experienced attacks including vandalism, a suspicious fire, shootings and the desecration of religious sanctuaries. The Jewish community continues to experience persistent bias attacks, accounting for 65% of all religiously motivated hate crimes documented by the FBI in 2010. Hate crimes based on anti-Hispanic bias accounted for 67% of ethnically motivated crimes in 2010. And although African Americans were 12.4% of the U.S. population in 2010, they were victims in 70% of all racially motivated hate crimes that year.
Hate crimes are real in America. In the spirit of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who said; "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," I am calling on all people of conscience to email, write, or call U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary, and voice your concern about the injustices that are committed against Americans because of their race,culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion.
The Matthew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act became a federal statute to give support to the First Amendment rights and civil liberties of all Americans. Yet, children and adults continue to be harassed, beaten, and murdered because of hate.
Martin Niemöller stated:
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."
I add if they come for Sikhs and we do nothing as a country our children's children shall hang their heads in shame wondering why we did not speak and act when history called our name. Hate crimes are antithetical to equality and justice and silence is the environment where the virus of hate thrives. By speaking up we can inoculate our country from the spread of this deadly spiritual disease.
Rev. Otis Moss III : Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Christian Activist and Cultural Critic