I lived in Utah as a minority for over 7 years - I was the target of discrimination and racial profiling in spite of serving as an aide to the mayor of Salt Lake City. My sons experienced it frequently and one was even beaten up by someone who called him the "n" word.
Since the election of the nation's first black President, hate crimes against blacks and other minorities are on the rise. Utah and Arizona were among the last states in the nation to pass hate crimes laws. Indeed, the original Utah hate crimes bill championed by Latino Pete Suazo, who died in a tragic ATV accident shortly after I went to work at the Mayor's office and was ultimately brought to fruition by the amazing Legislator, David Litvack is a sadly watered-down version of what the bill needed to be.
Critics of hate crimes legislation contend that there are already laws on the books that are strong enough, but simply need to be enforced. Recent killings would indicate that the punishments for such heinous crimes are simply no deterrent to hatemongers.
Here are some frightening statistics released by a new study as reported by the AP moments ago:
_African-Americans remain by far the most frequent victims of hate crimes. Of the 7,624 hate crime incidents reported nationwide in 2007, the most recent year available, 34 percent were perpetrated against African-Americans.
_In the five years from 2003-2007, the number of hate crimes reported against Hispanics increased nearly 40 percent, from 426 in 2003 to 595 in 2007. Of all hate crimes reported in the United States in 2007, 7.8 percent were committed against Hispanics.
_In 2007, there were 969 reported hate crimes committed against Jews, constituting 12.7 percent of all hate crimes reported and 69 percent of religious bias hate crimes reported.
_Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 2001, the number of hate crimes directed against Arab-Americans, Muslims and Sikhs escalated dramatically. In 2001, those groups were victimized in nearly 5 percent of the total number of hate crimes reported that year, 481 out of 9,730. While the number of reported hate crimes against the groups declined from the peak of 2001, it remains substantially above pre-2001 levels.
_Reported hate crimes committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation increased in 2007 to 1,265, the highest level in five years. Of all hate crimes reported in 2007, the proportion committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals rose to 16.6 percent, also the highest level in five years.
Would someone please remind me again why it is that we are debating about whether we need enhanced hate crimes?