Sunday, June 05, 2005

Good sign, bad sign
David Neiwert continues to be the local authority on hate crime manifestations. His latest piece of news comes from Santa Clara, California.
They started on May 18 when Robert Richardson, on his day off from work, stepped out to mow his lawn and saw a yellowed pattern burned into the grass. Standing over it, he couldn't decipher what it said.

"I knew it spelled something but I couldn't see what it said," said Richardson, 43, an African-American, who earlier this year moved into the neighborhood.

He got on the roof and saw "I hate" followed by a crude slur.

"Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. It was really a shock," said Richardson, who grew up in the Bay Area.

I won't intrude too much on David's turf as the expert here. Anything I would say would require copious linking to his posts for context. The recurring points that David tries to make are that hate crimes are terrorism on a smaller scale and that most hate crime criminals are not members of groups. Most communities dismiss hate crimes as local rowdies, acting out, and ignore the underlying message. Once these "rowdies" are allowed to organize into groups, it's really too late for local forces to handle them. Go read David's originals for details and examples.

What I want to comment on is these paragraphs from the San Jose Mercury story on the recent Santa Clara crimes:
Responding to Richardson's phone call, sheriff investigators went out to canvass the neighborhood for possible witnesses. Then they saw swastikas, a Nazi symbol widely used by hate groups.

Houses on both sides of the street were targeted for vandalism, but not all. Even a welcoming house with benches laid out on the front porch and a small teddy bear dangling from a heart-shaped "Welcome" sign on the front door. That place, too, was hit.

On a bad day, I might sneer at the fact that the writer feels the need to explain to the paper's readers what a swastika is and that it has a tie to fascism. On the other hand, maybe we can take it as a good sign that the writer feels the effectiveness of the swastika is fading and needs to be explained. Sure, forgetting the past is something I consider bad, but denying criminal symbols their power is something that can be viewed as a good. Right?

Or maybe the writer is a naive and pedantic nincompoop. Let's follow Mel Brooks' advice and hope for the best, but expect the worst.

No comments: