On Nov. 1, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity held an event entitled ‘A Closer Look at Hate On the National and Local Levels’ featuring Eli Reyna, an Orange County’s community relations and marketing director. This was the first of a three part series examining hate crimes entitled ‘Shades of Hate: A Hate Crime Series.’
Reyna provides cultural competency training for various police departments. He has also hosted social justice workshops and conferences in many universities and colleges in the United States, Mexico, Peru and Spain. Reyna spoke about how hate crimes have persisted in spite of technological advancements in society.
‘There has been tremendous growth in the last few years in science, technology and communication,’ Reyna said. ‘But in the basic area of human relations and rights, we are moving backwards. We just don’t know how to relate with someone of a different culture.’
Reyna said that many people create negative stereotypes about different groups because of one bad experience with someone belonging to that group, but that no justifications exist for creating stereotypes. In addition, stereotypes are learned from family and friends when people forget to educate themselves. They are the cause for hate crimes and hate incidents, which have devastating effects on its victims.
‘Hate crimes have an impact unlike any other crime,’ Reyna said. ‘They tear at the very bond that makes us human. They create suspicion among one another. They send a message to those who might be a part of the victim’s community, ‘You’re not safe and this is for you, too.”
Reyna emphasized the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident. According to Reyna, a hate incident is a legal act of hatred that is protected under the First Amendment, while a hate crime is illegal and poses a threat to its victim.
‘The motive behind a crime determines if it is a hate crime or not. If prejudice is the motive, the crime is classified as a hate crime,’ Reyna said.
The Orange County Human Relations Commission has been working alongside local police departments in collecting data on hate crimes and hate incidents since 1991.
According to OCHRC, Jews were the most frequent victims of hate crimes last year. African-Americans, who make up 1.7 percent of the population in Orange County, were the second most targeted group for hate crimes. Gays and lesbians were the third most victimized group last year.
Reyna said that there are three types of perpetrators of hate crimes: thrill seekers, reaction offenders and mission offenders.
According to Reyna, thrill seekers are usually under the age of 19 and mainly partake in hate crimes for bragging rights. Reaction offenders are people who become nervous when their neighborhood starts becoming ethnically diverse, reacting with incidents that incite racial prejudice. Reyna said that the perpetrators attack depending on their perceptions of their victims.
Most hate crime victims are mistaken for someone of another race, a race that the attacker actually wanted to harm.
Unfortunately, Reyna said that many victims do not report hate crimes because they fear retaliation from the perpetrators. They might be afraid of the police, and if they do not have the proper documentation they will face deportation. Victims might be afraid to disclose their sexual orientation to workers, friends and family members.
Reyna said that bringing attention to the victims of hate crimes can prevent it from happening.
‘You don’t tolerate people. You respect them,’ Reyna said. ‘One way that we can stop hate is by speaking out on behalf of the victims.’
The presentation touched the hearts of many students in the audience.
‘I found the presentation to be very informative,’ said Jonathan Friedman, a graduate student in molecular biology. ‘I was surprised with some of the statistics that were presented in the slide show.’
Frank Ehvenfried, a second-year anthropology major, believes that hate crimes can be prevented.
‘I think that hate crimes can be prevented in the future through education,’ Ehvenfried said. ‘People can’t be apathetic to racial injustice.’