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The Enemy Within America: Hate : Ugly racial crimes remind us of how far we have not come

September 13, 1993

In Orange County earlier this month, a traffic dispute in a shopping mall parking lot escalated into an ugly racial beating. A black woman was killed as one of her children and a flock of witnesses looked on in horror.

Three people, one a 17-year-old La Habra girl who told police that she was a skinhead, were charged with racially motivated involuntary manslaughter.

In Florida last week, a jury found two white men guilty of abducting and torching a black man who had gone out to get a newspaper and then leaving him for dead.

We as a nation have experienced slavery, the deep divisions and suffering of the Civil War and the slow evolution of the civil rights movement that has brought us to the end of the 20th Century. Amid efforts against bigotry, and our recent attempts to celebrate our diversity as a nation, the persistence of hate crimes necessarily is extremely upsetting.

In Orange County earlier this year, a group called Orange County Together recently set for itself the lofty goal of fostering racial harmony and, through better education, heading off incidents like that at the La Habra shopping mall. Such initiatives are desperately needed in Southern California and around the nation.

We haven't come very far when a person's well-being during everyday activities is so easily endangered. The chronicles of horror unfolding during the most routine moments of life in America remind us of the work yet to be done to realize lasting and broadly based improvement in race relations in this country.

Citizens, if they can make only one contribution to the nation's future, could do no better than trying to bring America closer to the ideal of liberty and justice for all, regardless of race, color, creed or religion.

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