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Joel Watson

February 2001

I suppose I always thought that my community was safe from hate crimes. That was until I found the numbers "666" up on a friend's door one night. This kind of thing had never happened to anyone I knew until then. As I'm sure you can imagine, just this one simple thing caused me to change perspective about hate crimes. The reason I believe I found the numbers there was because my friend's downstairs neighbor thought he was gay. He is not, but it didn't matter to the man that lived downstairs.

The numbers were up on his door in stickers, so we didn't have to call hate crime prevention, we just decided to take them down. But, as evidenced by a recent Hate Crime Prevention Scroll on MTV, for which MTV did a very daring thing, and preempted all of 17 hours of programming, there are many, many cases of hate crimes popping up all over this, "land of the free."

Hate crimes are not just something that happens to blacks, gays, asians, and latinos. There was a case where a black man went on a killing spree, killing only whites, because that's what he said the voices in his head told him to do. In addition, a man was charged with a hate crime against women, when his ex-wife and several other women he had dated came forward and spoke about being raped, tortured, and beaten.

But what begins it? Some people believe hate crime comes from hate speech. They suggest that a word holds a connotation, a connotation that incites violence. Maybe this is true, but how do we stop hate speech, when we hear it everyday? Shouldn't everybody be offended when those words are spoken, even if they aren't spoken against you? The best way to stop hate speech is to make your voice heard. If you hear a hate word used, let that person know that you don't appreciate his or her language. But most of all, get involved. To find out how, go to www.glsen.org

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Joel is 19, and currently attending Missouri Western State College, in St. Joseph, Missouri. emblade@hotmail.com


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