YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Commission Reports Increase in Hate Crimes

May 04, 1997

In its 17th annual hate crime report, the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission states that the 50% increase in such crimes against African Americans from 1995 to 1996 "does not say that it has become open season on African Americans" (April 25). The commission attributes the increase to two factors. First, black people have encountered more racial animosity as they have moved into enclaves once populated exclusively by other ethnic groups. Secondly, African Americans are more likely than Asians and Latinos to report hate crimes.

I believe that the commission should also consider other causes. During the entire 17 years that hate crimes have been reported, African Americans have consistently been the most targeted racial group. This, in spite of the fact that the black population of Los Angeles County has remained about 11% for several years.

In my view the mass media play a pivotal role in shaping the public's perception of various racial and ethnic groups. Several years ago, when the media focused on economic tensions between the U.S. and Japan, the commission reported a rise in hate crimes against Asians. Later, during the Gulf War, vast media coverage of the conflict resulted in a dramatic increase in the hate crimes against Arabs. By contrast, there is no ebb and flow in the besmirching of the black image by the mass media. Black stereotypes in sitcoms, movies and news reports are so widespread and consistent that they have now become a deplorable American institution.

It is high time for the Human Relations Commission to confront this problem head-on. A logical starting point would be to address daily racism in the mass media.



* A 25% increase in hate crimes is alarming, although the numbers are small considering the size of our population. It can't be resolved by the county Human Relations Commission's request for a grant of half a million dollars to "target" problem areas. The minimal sum allows only a cosmetic covering. To get at root causes calls for greater individual and collective involvement to develop self-worth and a family and community environment that favors a sense of pride. Job security, decent housing and community recreational facilities rest with a society dedicated to achieving such ends.

The major emphasis should be in education, both at secular and religious institutions. There is a need to emphasize American history and the story of a nation dedicated to fulfilling the democratic promise for individual rights and opportunities, and the protection of groups whose differences must be brought into the circle of friendships and mutual respect.


Pacific Palisades

Los Angeles Times Articles