Hate at Home – A Community Response
What are hate incidents and hate crimes?
· Hate incidents are behaviors motivated by bias against an individual or group because of their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, or familial status. These categories are specifically protected in federal hate crimes laws, as well as Milwaukee County’s fair housing ordinance. There are additional protections under other local, state and federal fair housing laws. Hate incidents may or may not involve criminal activity.
· A hate crime is a criminal act directed against an individual or group because of characteristics such as those listed above. Hate crimes may involve conduct such as assault, homicide, arson, threats, or vandalism.
· Hate incidents (whether crimes or not) harm individual people, but are also harmful to entire groups and communities. They can spread fear and distrust, and can prevent victimized individuals and groups from participating fully and freely in community life.
· Hate incidents can happen anywhere, but the most common places they occur include on streets and sidewalks, businesses, private residences, schools, places of worship, and online.
Key indicators that a hate incident may have occurred include:
· Use of abusive or offensive verbal or written language, gestures, and images by the perpetrator
· Victim and witness perceptions
· Pattern of similar incidents in general locale
· Local activity of an organized hate group
· Timing of incident with specific religious holiday or other date of particular significance
Hate incidents can take many different forms. As noted above, some hate incidents are crimes, and some may not be. Some examples include:
· Vandalizing a home, place of worship or community center with symbols or words of hate
· Verbal name-calling and/or harassment
· Sending threatening messages in hard copy, in emails or texts, on social media, or on the telephone
· Taking photos of people without permission, in a mocking or hostile way
· Property damage (such as breaking windows, ruining gardens)
· Stalking and/or following
· Posting hate group materials in public places, such as community bulletin boards or on telephone poles and bus stop shelters
Who can fight hate in our community?
All of us. Everyone is responsible for building communities that are inclusive, welcoming and safe for all people.
You might be especially well-positioned to support victims of hate if you:
· are a neighborhood leader and community-builder,
· work for a school, religious congregation, health care facility, social services provider or housing development,
· are a public transit driver, or if you use public transportation,
· are a member of a community group or faith-based organization,
· and if you believe everyone has a right to live free from hate!
There are many ways in which we can combat the presence of hate in metropolitan Milwaukee.
A Community Response Network
In an effort to provide meaningful support to victims of hate, a group of Milwaukee-based organizations have convened as a Community Response Network. Network members include the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, IndependenceFirst, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Legal Action of Wisconsin, the International Institute of Wisconsin, Jewish Family Services, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Diverse & Resilient, the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, the Interfaith Conference of Milwaukee, ACLU of Wisconsin, Sherman Park Community Association, and the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, among others.
The Community Response Network has developed a Strategy for Rapid Response, intended to provide context-specific, tailored support for victims of hate incidents as quickly as possible following the incident. It’s important that victims of hate incidents know they’re not alone, and that help is available.
Victims of hate incidents can contact the Community Response Network by calling the MMFHC main office line, 414-278-1240, and asking for Kori Schneider Peragine. Community Response Network members will then mobilize to connect victims with a wide variety of services.
Depending on the victim’s needs and wishes, these resources may include legal assistance; help pursuing a civil rights complaint; help finding permanent housing or emergency shelter; assistance accessing health care, including mental health services to cope with the trauma inflicted by hate; support working with school systems; assistance approaching police; and support interacting with media.