Hate crimes that seem to sneak in under the radar

We all know there are some hateful people out there. We see the evidence in the news each and every day. What often escapes us is the fact that a lot of this stuff is happening around us, or in places we’d least expect it.

Take Thunder Bay, Ontario for an example.

You may wonder why I’m discussing Thunder Bay, as I suppose quite a few of you are probably wondering where is Thunder Bay, as in you probably have either never heard of it, or you just never gave it much thought. For me, however, when I saw a recent article, all sorts of memories came to mind. My family (on my mother’s side) is from Thunder Bay.

Every other summer or so when I was a kid, what little there was of my family used to drive from California to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Each time we took the trip, my mom would point out that it used to be called Port Arthur, and that she was born there after her father moved to Canada from Poland after the war. And then during one summer, she and two of her friends took a road trip across the United States and settled in different locations (her best friend in St. Cloud, Minnesota, her other friend in Florida, and she in Santa Monica, California…where I was born).

When we used to take this trip, one of the things that used to fascinate me was the local lore, and specifically the tale of “the Sleeping Giant”, which was the story of a giant Native American who fell asleep on a mountain until one day he would be woken up to aid his people again. It’s a natural rock formation that looks like a sleeping giant, and I remember being able to see it from most areasĀ of Thunder Bay.

Anyway, so years later, I’m reading an article and discover that Thunder Bay is back in the headlines. Except, this time, it’s because some racist moron threw a trailer hitch at a Native American woman walking down the street. What the article doesn’t tell you is that the woman eventually succumbed to her wounds and died. The local Native Americans refer to the crime as a “hate crime” but in all that I’ve read, law enforcement is treating it as a general crime that was originally being treated as an aggravated assault, and now that she died, are “considering” changing the charges. There’s a certain amount of dismissing of the crime in the rhetoric, and one can’t help but wonder if it’s because it was “one of them” that died, rather than “one of us” as so often happens in these types of circumstances.

Which brings me to ask the question: What must be going through someone’s mind that thinks this type of behavior in the first place was either acceptable, or that it was something that might be fun to do? I remember when I was young, and I heard that some of the older kids were going to be “heading into town to do some gay bashing”, and never gave much thought (back then, at least) to what that probably meant. Those young people back then thought that was a completely acceptable thing to do, just as much as this guy driving around in the passenger seat of his car thought it was a pretty appropriate thing to do to just throw a trailer hitch out of a car window and laugh when he said “got one!”.

What no one really talks about is that our communities brought these people up to feel that this sort of thing was okay. We defend ourselves by saying that we would never do such a thing, but then we’re shocked when someone who lives next door to us is charged with doing just that.

At what point are the rest of us also responsible? I ask because I really don’t know the answer to that, and I suspect that we’ll never find out because it’s never being discussed, and I doubt it ever will.



duaneHate crimes that seem to sneak in under the radar

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