Twenty years ago Vincent Chin, a Chinese man, was bludgeoned to death outside a Detroit McDonalds by several angry autoworkers who associated Chin”s race with their unemployment.
James Byrd, a black man from Texas, was beaten then dragged for two miles behind a pickup truck by white supremacists.
Yusuf Hawkins never saw his 17th birthday because an irate mob of 30 young whites shot and killed him in the streets of a predominately white neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1989. Investigators determined he was targeted because of his race.
Last night in below-freezing temperatures and lightly-falling snow, students gathered on the Diag for a candlelight vigil as part of the week-long Hate Crime Symposium to remember these victims and many others who have suffered from hate-related crimes.
“In today”s day and age it is unfortunate that racial discrimination still continues. It is our intention to inform the student body that it is these criminal acts that are plaguing society,” said Business junior Kenan Mossa-Basha, a member of the Muslim Students” Association that helped organize the symposium.
Speakers addressed the unique nature of hate crimes and why they differ from other criminal acts.
“Hate crimes are not only crimes against the individual, but against the community as well,” said second-year Medical student Howard Liu, who spoke on behalf of the Asian-American community. “The violence targets your faith, how you look, how you dress and your beliefs.”
LSA junior Ed McDonald, who represented Honesty, Eagerness and Determination of Self, emphasized how hate crimes and racially motivated acts have penetrated many facets of U.S. society even its legal system.
“I”m a firm supporter of freedom of speech, but I am not a supporter of ignorance,” McDonald said. “I don”t fear the KKK, I don”t fear the Nazi Aryan nation, I fear the police.”
Organizers said this year”s event is especially significant because of the growing racial tension in America as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Certain portions of the student population here and in America have been more targeted this year than ever before,” Mossa-Basha said.
Organizers hope that the vigil not only increased students” awareness, but also encouraged them to take action.
“People need to step up again and do something pro-active,” Liu said. “If you change the mind of one person you may very well save a life.”