News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Real Face of Racism

For several years now, many in the far right have taken a fancy to branding any advocates for minority causes as racists. The logic of their accusations boils down to this: Prejudice against minorities no longer exists. If you say prejudice exist and want to do something about it, you are a racist.

Of course, this attitude requires us to forget completely that until a few decades ago White Anglo-Saxon Protestant males were the exclusive stewards of power in the United States. That, they assure us, is in the past. Today, the U.S. is a colorblind society.

So it seemed logical for people with this attitude to say Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates are racists. After all, they had the nerve to say that this was not a colorblind society and prejudice still prevailed in many corners of it.

The absurdity of these smears of Sotomayor and Bates make sense only to people blinded by fear. Ironically, the real face of racism and prejudice in the U.S. is alive and sadly all-too-well.

According to the FBI's 2007 HCSA report:

· Approximately 51 percent of the reported hate crimes were race-based, with 18.4 percent on the basis of religion, 16.6 percent on the basis of sexual orientation, and 13.2 percent on the basis of ethnicity.

· Approximately 69 percent of the reported race-based crimes were directed against blacks, 19 percent of the crimes were directed against whites, and 4.9 percent of the crimes were directed against Asians or Pacific Islanders. The number of hate crimes directed against individuals on the basis of their national origin/ethnicity increased to 1,007 in 2007 from 984 in 2006.

· For the fourth year in a row, the number of reported crimes directed against Hispanics increased — from 576 in 2006 to 595 in 2007.

· Though the overall number of hate crimes decreased slightly, the number of hate crimes directed at gay men and lesbians increased almost six percent — from 1,195 in 2006 to 1,265 in 2007.

· Religion-based crimes decreased, from 1,462 in 2006 to 1,400 in 2007, but the number of reported anti-Jewish crimes increased slightly, from 967 in 2006 to 969 in 2007 — 12.7 percent of all hate crimes reported in 2007 — and 69 percent of the reported hate crimes based on religion.

· Reported crimes against Muslims decreased from 156 to 115, 8.2 percent of the religion-based crimes. This is still more than four times the number of hate crimes reported against Muslims in 2000.2

Fox News, that bastion of liberal bias, recently reported: “The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement agencies that recent news is helping ‘right-wing extremist groups’ recruit new members and could lead to violence.”

In truth, this right wing fascination with hurling accusations of racism against minorities is dangerously disingenuous and turns a blind eye to the dangers posed by the real face of racism and hate.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez