September 2020

Our Community Responds to Hate

Perspective by Anne Glasser

Looking straight into the camera, a young man wearing a large white cowboy hat says clearly, “… I just want to say one thing: All gays deserve to ****ing die!”

He went on to disrespect transgender people, shout out support for
“all lives matter” and assure the camera that our current POTUS would win
another term as president.


This video went viral, not just to our local community, but nationwide,
leaving many of us to wonder: Does this rise to the level of a hate
crime? What makes someone hate so deeply, especially when they’re only
a teenager? What do our local teens think about this? How did the
school respond? What are parents thinking of this? How does a small,
conservative town in Arizona respond to such a message?


Posting this kind of video is not considered a crime unless it targets
one or more specific individuals. Because he did threaten groups of individuals, saying they should die and or be beaten, this can be confusing. To
understand how this works in our legal system, we have to know some of
the facts regarding hate crime in the US.


“The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program defines hate crime as
a committed criminal offense which is motivated, in whole or in part, by
the offender’s bias(es) against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation,
ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”


FBI statistics from 2018 show that there were 7,120 hate crimes reported
in the US. That’s about 20 a day! And those are only the reported
ones — no one knows the full extent of the problem.


Of these reported crimes, 19.6% were associated with sexual orientation
or gender identity. Reported crimes jumped nearly 25% in both
2016 and 2017.


Crime researcher Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of
Hate and Extremism at California State University, has said the increase
may be due to more rigorous reporting of hate crimes.


What leads someone to hate crime?


People can be led to engage in hate crime based on feeling threatened
by social or political uncertainty in their lives, or from fear, ignorance
or anger.


One reason a person can turn to hate crime is social change.We are
living through the worst pandemic in over a century, of course, and having
to socially distance is challenging for everyone. For teens this can be
especially hard given how they are still learning about forming bonds of
friendship and discovering who they are.


Then there is political change. Not only are we in an election year,
but we’ve had almost four years of a president promoting hate on both
traditional and social media. The social-media-savvy teens of today are
very aware of his actions. How could it not affect them?


The America Psychological Association refers to fear as a reason why
someone may turn to hate crime. But fear of what? Fear or hatred can be
from ignorance. People often fear what they don’t know and have little
exposure to.When someone is afraid, it’s common for them to pick a
side and lash out negatively at the ‘other.’


Maybe the teen who made the hate video hasn’t had opportunities to
get to know people in our LGBTQ+ community.


Local teens speak out


I have spoken to several local teens regarding this video, some of
whom attend PHS and some who are part of our LGBTQ+ community, who
live in fear of hate crime every day.


This video has increased their fear to simply go to school. Being who
they are has always carried some level of risk, but with this video circulating
in the community, many expressed how they now feel even more
need to keep their guard up.


A common theme I hear is they are now more afraid to use the restrooms
at school. Some are afraid to be alone anywhere for fear of beatings,
harassment or assault.


With the threat of violence coming from a student, one teen said that
they are concerned for those that found school to be safer than home.
Some are shocked. Still others say they are so used to being hated and
treated poorly by other students that they weren’t surprised at all.
When I asked them what they hoped would come out of the hate
video, I thought their answers were remarkable! I heard them speak of
hope that people could learn from it, respecting each other more, that the
community could educate themselves on LGBTQ+ issues, and even offer
more support.


When referring to the teen who made the video, this comment impressed
me the most: “If they are remorseful, I hope they and I might
gain some sort of friendship.” I had the impression from most of these
teens that they really want to help strengthen our LGBTQ+ community so
we can heal and grow stronger.


PHS principal weighs in


I reached out to Prescott High School Principal Mark Goligosky to
ask what he’d like to say to the community regarding this video.
He responds, “The staff at PHS are committed to protecting our students
and keeping them safe from harm.We have systems in place where
students are welcome to contact me or any of our staff if they need anything.
We do not tolerate harassment in any form, and will always respond
if anyone is threatened. We have responded appropriately in this
case and will continue to do so.”

I am heartened to see such a positive response from the PHS leadership.
They cannot control when or how such events happen, but they
have choices in how they respond, and I am happy to see them being as
supportive as they are.


Parent reactions

 

I found that the initial reaction for a lot of parents to the video was
sadness that this teen has so much hatred and fear. They also expressed
fear for our children, especially those of us that have kids that are LGBTQ+.
Yet there is also substantial hope that this incident will open dialogue
and lead to honest conversations. Parents expressed firm desire to come
together and make our LGBTQ+ community stronger. They, and I, want
our area to be safer for our children, and we wish to show the people of
Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and anywhere else who will listen
that there is nothing to fear from the LGBTQ+ community.


While the video is clearly not good, in some ways we can thank it for
creating an opportunity to come together as a community. Through The
Launch Pad we have teens, adults, allies, and LGBTQ+ who are working
together to help support our LGBTQ+ community.


We have formed an Adult Action Group that is looking into how we
can build a safer community for us all, with a focus on our LGBTQ+ teens.
As a group we are reaching out to teachers, principals, religious leaders
and anyone else who is willing to help.


We are also working with the Greater Yavapai County Coalition to
help educate the public about LGBTQ+ issues (AZ-GYCC.org).
We would like to invite everyone to join our group and help.We
meet on Wednesdays through Zoom at 5:30pm. If you’d like to join,
please contact Courtney Osterfelt at The Launch Pad.
 


What started out with a hate video spewing threats has led to us
coming together to build and strengthen our community. Together we
can heal and come out on the other side stronger than we started.


Anne Glasser is a homeschooling mom of two teens. She is passionate about
all things LGBTQ+.

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