'Hate Crimes' Motivated by Fear, Ignorance, Doubt

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 8, 1999 | Go to article overview

'Hate Crimes' Motivated by Fear, Ignorance, Doubt


Byline: Burt Constable

What's hate got to do with it?

We give racists too much credit by dubbing their murderous acts "hate crimes."

Such a taint diminishes the value of hate, an emotion that can be every bit as rational, valid, genuine and powerful as its flip side of love. True hate requires thought, the ability to reason, experience, evidence, logic and even soul-searching.

Benjamin Smith, the young, pathetically twisted gunman who hunted Jews, blacks and Asians, didn't hate his victims.

He never knew them.

He didn't hate Ricky Byrdsong, the 43-year-old father who was walking with his kids in Skokie when Smith shot him in the back and killed him.

He didn't hate Won-Joon Yoon, the graduate student gunned down outside a church in Bloomington, Ind.

Hate didn't motivate Smith's shooting at a crowd of Orthodox Jews in Rogers Park, an Asian couple in Northbrook, a black pastor in Decatur or a group of Asian men in Urbana.

These are crimes born of fear, ignorance, stupidity, self-doubt, cowardliness and feelings of inferiority - not hate.

"The crux of it is the disempowerment of a child," explains Kathy Yokoyama, a facilitator with an enlightening program called Healing Racism. She says the social inadequacies spawned from emotionally impoverished environs feed on "socially sanctioned stereotypes" and result in adults fixated on perceived differences according to race, religion, gender or ethnic background.

Ignorance and fear are compounded by misinformation.

Yokoyama tells the story of one non-black man who felt discomfort, even fear, in the presence of black people. Turns out, the seed for that prejudice was planted years ago by the grandfather who reared him.

The man recalls the day his granddad, sitting on the porch peeling an apple, explained how they needed to trek into town where the blankety-blank black folks lived. …

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