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How Do We Mobilize Against Hate?

April 04, 1999

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies recently arrested two white men on suspicion of assaulting an African American man who approached a white woman in a Lancaster store's parking lot. Authorities, who said the African American man thought the woman was a former classmate, said the alleged attackers were members of a white supremacist group.

The Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission recently reported that hate crimes rose nearly 20% in the Antelope Valley in 1996. In Lancaster alone, there were 20 reported incidents last year, according to the Sheriff's Department. KARIMA A. HAYNES asked two Antelope Valley residents what can be done to improve race relations in the area.

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DARREN PARKER

39, Quartz Hill; president, Antelope Valley Human Relations Hate Crime Task Force

The effort to improve race relations [in Lancaster] has been ongoing for the past four years. It took a year to bring all the agencies together to create the task force, and we have been moving forward for the last three years.

The task force is dealing with race relations through our education committee, public relations committee and a community relations committee. We also just created the first victims support group in Los Angeles County. Through the district attorney's office we received a grant to fund our Juvenile Offenders Learning Tolerance program. It's a program for juveniles who have been convicted of a hate crime. The youths and their parents are taught tolerance and community involvement.

There is no one particular thing that has set off the racial attacks here, other than the fact that there are more minorities moving into the valley and some residents don't like that. They feel that because they are so far removed from L.A. proper that they are excluded from learning racial tolerance.

The difference between living in Lancaster and L.A. proper is that in L.A. there are areas where only people of one culture live: South-Central is mostly black and Koreatown is mostly Korean. In Lancaster, the houses were built as the people came. In any given development, you can have different races of people on one block.

The Antelope Valley is attracting major corporations and residential developers, and we are experiencing growth. We are working hard to promote growth and our quality of life here. This has made some longtime residents feel uprooted, uncomfortable. Now the job is to re-educate them. We are starting with the youth because we believe they will be able to do the right thing.

ELIZABETH FARINA

16, Lancaster; president, Teen to Teen Program of Beth Knesset Bamidbar

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It's only part of the community that has these racial problems and, unfortunately, they create problems for the rest of us.

The Teen to Teen program helps to increase awareness of other cultures. Through knowledge, we can increase tolerance and acceptance. The program mostly focuses on Jewish youth, but we also focus on other cultures as well. We meet at least once a month and we try to plan programs where we interact with other youth groups from different religions. We had a program one time where a bunch of youth groups discussed hate crimes in the Antelope Valley and how we can increase acceptance.

Once you know about other cultures and religions, you can understand the beauty of them and appreciate their beauty all the more. It's hard to hate something that is beautiful.

The age range of the program runs from 7th grade to 12th grade. You learn a lot at this age. If you learn how to tolerate and accept other cultures at this age, it will stay with you the rest of your life. On the other hand, if you learn to hate, it will stay with you.

There have been racial attacks at my temple. There has been anti-Semitic graffiti, and they ruined our playground equipment. At my high school [Lancaster High School], there have been swastikas drawn on walls.

Most of the people who have this hatred come from a situation, either at home or in their social life, where there is this constant hatred. They have been brought up with it and . . . [it] has become a part of them.

We must look beyond the lines of race and religion. We must look at a person not as a Jew or a Christian, a black or a white, but as a person. There are only small things that differentiate us. Why should we focus on the small things when we have so much in common as people?

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