Campus Hate Crimes: Fruit on the American Tree of Violence

Article excerpt

"I write about violence as naturally as Jane Austen wrote about manners. Violence shapes and obsesses our society, and if we do not stop being violent, we have no future."

---Edward Bond, British playwright. Lear, Preface (1972).

* Christopher Kindinger and Brad Waite were victims of a hate crime on January 19,1998. They were walking on the campus of Miami University in Ohio when two white men drove up in a gray sedan. Rushing from the car, they shouted racial and homophobic epithets at Kindinger and Waite, and began beating Kindinger who is Black with an axe handle. Waite ran and sought help at a nearby house.

* In 1996, the state of Colorado reported 133 incidents of hate crimes, with 10 incidents at The University of Colorado. In 1998, four hate crimes involved student groups of Oyate, a Native-American organization, and the Black Student Alliance.

* In 1997, a Black student at Fresno State College was beaten repeatedly on the head with a metal pipe in what many viewed as a hate crime.

America's Culture of Violence

* Licensed firearms dealers sell an estimated 7.5 million guns every year, of which 3.5 million are handguns.

Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Estimate, 1994

* There are more than 223 million firearms in the United States, 76 million of which are handguns, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Estimate, 1994

* Seventy-five percent of people believe they have a constitutional right to bear arms, according to a 1995 U.S. News and World Report poll.

* Nearly one out of every four households in the United States has at least one handgun.

Source: Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, National Opinion Research Center. 1997/98 National Gun Policy Survey: Questionnaire with Weighted Frequencies. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, 1998

* Of all firearm homicides in 1997 in which the type of gun was known, 84 percent were committed with handguns.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reports for the United States: 1997. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1998

Although an unpopular proposition, the assertion that America is the most violent society on earth is true. Murders, rape, arson, armed robbery and kidnapping all take place in a nation that has always been deeply rooted in a culture that creates, condones and ultimately confuses its citizens about violence. It is a nation where water guns are standard toys for children. It is a nation where our heroes' legacies of violence are ignored and their deeds are glorified as being "patriotic." Andrew Jackson, for example, is revered as "Old Hickory" and a "tough politician" but his slaughter of NativeAmericans goes relatively ignored in the history books. Thomas Jefferson's, and other "Founding Fathers," slaveholding is ignored in favor of a more genteel and "politically correct" image of them being intellectuals struggling with the birth of American democracy, rather than their children born to enslaved Black women.

The culture of violence continued during the slaughter of Native Americans at Wounded Knee, slave labor among Chinese immigrants as westward expansion took the form of railroad building. It continued with the founding of the Ku Klux Klan, the disenfranchisement of African Americans after 1877, lynchings, burnings, rapes that ushered in the 20th century, now being referred to as "The American Century". The 20th century continued America's obsession with guns and Hollywood's first "blockbuster"' was Birth of A Nation, which featured blackfaced white actors portraying the most hideous stereotypes of African Americans. President Woodrow Wilson was the Siskel and Ebert of his day by recommending the film to "all" Americans and saying that it would provide a good understanding of how the culture of the South was shaped because of the evils of Reconstruction. …