A hate crime is reported nearly every hour in this country. These attacks not only harm the victim but create a climate of fear that reverberates across entire communities. This month, communities across the country join in a week of action to prevent hate crimes.
Hate violence often serves to silence those opposed to the politics of division. Hate crime scholars Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt have argued for years that such violence carries a chilling effect beyond the individual victim; biased crimes put a whole community – especially those who can identify with the victim – on edge because of the targeted nature of such acts. In this way biased crimes, like acts of terrorism, aim to bundle entire groups of people into the singular status of a victim. Furthermore, while incidents of political hate violence are often depicted by media sources and others as isolated incidents, the larger impact on our democracy should not be overlooked.
For instance, according to the American Psychological Association, “. . . not only is it an attack on one’s physical self, but it is also an attack on one’s very identity.”
In 2008 a series of attacks by a group of seven local teenagers against Latino residents of the Long Island, New York, town of Patchogue ended with the killing of 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero. An Ecuadorian immigrant, Lucero had been a Patchogue resident for 13 years.
From the 1980s up until roughly 2000, this seemingly average American community was comprised of mostly white residents. When an influx of immigrants came to the area, anxieties rooted in xenophobia began to swell. Instead of embracing their new neighbors, hate grew amongst sectors of Suffolk County’s residents, which resulted in harassment and eventually violence.
The film Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness tells the story of a community’s response to hate violence.
Filmed over a two-year period, the documentary follows Mayor Paul Pontieri, Marcelo Lucero’s brother Joselo Lucero, community leaders, residents, and students as they openly address the underlying causes of said violence, as they work to heal divisions, and as they take steps to ensure safety and to promote respect in their community. While revealing the trauma of hate, the film provides a starting point for initiating a dialogue about how to proactively organize before hate and xenophobia transforms into violence.
The film will air nationwide on PBS stations on September 21.
As part of a national call to action against hate violence, Not In Our Town joins with communities across the nation for the Not In Our Town National Week of Action: Communities Stand Together Against Hate from September 18-24. Please stay tuned to Imagine2050 for some of reports on the week.