When People of Color Commit Hate Crimes
WNYC recently aired a story responding to a spate of hate-based incidents that have taken place across the five boroughs in the last few months. In his reporting, Arun Venugopal revisited the 2013 attack on a Harlem physician who was mistaken for Muslim by his attackers (he is Sikh and wears a turban). What the recent incidents have in common with the 2013 attack is that the alleged perpetrators were people of color.
Evidence suggests that these aren’t isolated examples. We know all too well that communities of color and other marginalized groups are on the receiving end of hate. But people of color commit hate crimes, too. And this phenomenon, said Mark Potok, who spent twenty years at the Southern Poverty Law Center, is “the dirty little secret of hate.”
Venugopal addresses the topic with sensitivity and nuance and he asks, can we confront this form of bigotry without further inflaming racial tensions? And what, if anything, should we do differently when people of color are accused of hateful acts?
In 2013, the Harlem doctor sought restorative justice, but he was told it was not an option for him. As a result, he still sits with the discomfort of knowing that the criminal legal system perpetrated further harm in his name, and it’s unlikely that any of the young men involved learned any valuable lessons about Islamophobia, the Sikh faith, etc.
“It’s very, very important for a just and merciful society to build restorative paths when things go wrong,” he said, “and I think it’s really tough when you don’t see those options.”