By Olivia Tiernan
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York
I am not sure how many people are aware of how prominent a problem bias hate crimes have become, not only in the United States, but worldwide. Bias hate crimes are crimes initiated by hate of racial, ethnic, or religious groups different from your own. Through education and rehabilitation, communities and authorities are trying to combat this problem. Moreover, students around the world are trying to alleviate the problem by getting involved in educational programs.
Art by Erin Riegel
In our school, Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York, many of us were affected by a recent incident of bias hate. Two years ago, we came to school, and the entire outside perimeter of the building had been spray-painted with bias and racist messages against the Jews, blacks, and Chinese at our school and in our community. Many people were affected by this vandalism. The emotions among us ranged from anger, to hurt, to worry.
Those of us on Long Island can also remember an incident in which two students from a nearby high school, Commack High School, painted swastikas and slogans such as "Hitler is a Hero" on their school track just hours before graduation ceremonies a year ago. The two perpetrators were nineteen years old, and are now part of a rehabilitation group called STOPBIAS.
STOPBIAS is a new program from the Suffolk County, New York, District Attorney's office that was created to deal with the flourishing number of crimes tied to intolerance. As part of their sentence, the boys were required to complete the program, which includes being educated about the Holocaust and culture of the Jewish people. It also involves a tour of a local temple, escorted by a rabbi, and touching the sacred Torah. The rabbi said that by touching the Torah, the history of the Jewish people and the Holocaust will remain with them because it was made real to these offenders.
Aside from STOPBIAS, there are a number of other programs being created around the country to stop the growing number of bias hate crimes. In the United States, to date, hate crime rehabilitation programs have been adopted in thirty-four states. In December 1993, fourteen members of a neo-Nazi group were required by federal authority in Los Angeles to attend a three-day program during which they met with Holocaust survivors, a black federal judge, and members of a black church that the group had planned to bomb, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
In New Jersey, the state attorney general's office recently started a statewide program for youths who commit hate crimes. The idea is that by creating these programs, the criminals' outlook can be corrected, and perpetrators will become productive and interactive members of society. According to the FBI, there were 7,600 incidents reported in the United States in 1993. Of those, 62% were said to be racially motivated, 18% were motivated by religion, 12% by sexual orientation, and the remainder by ethnicity or national origin.
While anti-bias programs in the Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York have tried to rehabilitate people convicted of crimes relating to prejudices, the overwhelming majority of defendants who have ended up in the programs have committed acts of antisemitism. Suffolk's STOPBIAS program employs a variety of lecturers, clergy and films during its two-step process. The first part of the program has involved lessons revealing why the defendants' acts are considered crimes. The second part is more individualized, and the defendants are paired with members of the clergy or the community that they offended.
But, have the programs worked? They seem to have. Some defendants will later come back into the programs to talk to others who have committed crimes and show the new defendants why they are wrong, and what they should learn. Some even come back to work permanently in these programs. The main point of these programs is to make the perpetrators see their victims as humans, and so far, that seems to be working.
On the worldwide level, the frequency of hate crimes is also increasing. On the rise in Germany is a group known as the "Viking Youth" which is modeled very closely on the Hitler Youth. Viking Youth has been identified as one of Germany's most vicious and militant Nazi hate groups. Interior Minister Manfred Kanther has finally banned the organization, but the organization found out about the ban and regrouped under a different name. The principles of the Viking Youth include recreating the National Socialist German state; pathological antisemitism; militancy against internal and external "enemies"; and, Nazi völkisch ideology.
Recruitment for the Viking Youth begins with children at age six. They are taught the principles of National Socialism and drilled at military camps where they learn not only to shoot, but to construct and fire explosives as well. This threat is an area in which the world community needs to work. Families, schools, and governments need to work with young children and teens to try and help them before the hate escalates out of control with drastic consequences.
In our own school, we have decided to combat this problem through telecommunications and our global student magazine An End to Intolerance. By getting student input not only from Long Island and the rest of America, but from around the world as well, we are hoping to educate the world to the danger of hate crimes.
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Access the HGP's An End to Intolerance Web page.
Access the Holocaust/Genocide Project's Home Page.