The Unity Week vigil was held to denounce crimes based on bias. Trying to put aside prejudices and hatred, more than 50 students gathered together last night for a series of events focusing on hate crimes that culminated in a march from the Greenfield Intercultural Center to the Peace Sign on College Green. As they walked through campus, the marchers read accounts of hate crimes from across the country: "In Fairfax County, Va., an affluent community near Washington, D.C., in 1993, a 41-year-old black woman heard a doorbell ring at the home where she was housesitting," one marcher read. "When she looked out the window, she saw a cross burning 10 feet from the front door." The participants attended a town meeting at the Iron Gate Theater, then broke up into discussion groups at the GIC and later a smaller group of about 20 students participated in the vigil. The evening, which was part of the United Minorities Council's Unity Week, was both emotional and educational for many participants, who spent several hours discussing the controversial issue. A group of five panelists, all well versed in social and racial issues, discussed the importance of both hate crime legislation and preventative education in schools as a means of attacking a very complicated problem. Emily Greytak, the assistant director of the Anti-Defamation League's Eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware regional office, explained to the attendees that Pennsylvania's equivalent of hate crime legislation, which is called the Ethnic Intimidation Law, does not currently contain language on sexual orientation, gender or disability. She firmly believes that this legislation should be changed. "Hate crimes? send a message not only to the victims but to all members of the community that they should be afraid, that they should change their lifestyle," Greytak said. "When looking at hate crime legislation, the goal is to send a message that corresponds to the message being sent by the crime." Everyone is guilty of some amount of ignorance, prejudice and stereotyping, Greytak added, but she stressed that most people who hate do not commit hate crimes. Another panelist, psychoanalyst Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, talked with students about the psychology behind many hate crimes. She told the audience that those who commit hate crimes often feel threatened by their victims in some way. Young-Bruehl cited both affirmative action practices and the perceived affluence of some minority communities as sometimes causing resentment among others, saying that "minority groups are perceived to be making progress that is very hateful to those who feel superceded by it." Joo-Hyun Kang, executive director of the Audre Lorde Project in New York City, talked about the need for people to come together across boundaries and unite against hate. "We need to practice coalition politics," he said. Those in attendance agreed with Kang and were optimistic that the evening's events worked to increase unity among diverse groups and raise awareness of hate crimes. "I think people are going to begin to look at this issue in the multifaceted way that it is," said Karlene Burrell-McRae, associate director of the GIC. "I think there were people there who were genuinely concerned with the issue and wanted to learn some new information, and I think the 50 people there will pass it on."Comments powered by Disqus
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