November 17, 2008

Anti-Obama hate crimes in Pleasanton and elsewhere around the United States

This was reported in the Contra Costa Times this past week, that the home of a family in the suburb of Pleasanton, just south of my hometown of Walnut Creek, had been targeted by anti-Obama vandalism.

The Patrick family went to sleep Tuesday night happy that their choice for president, Barack Obama, won the election. They woke up Wednesday to learn firsthand that not everyone felt the same way.Vandals had slashed their Obama lawn sign and all the tires on their two cars. Obama's name and profanities were spray-painted onto their garage and cars, and their home on Kern Court was egged and toilet papered.

Actually, contrary to my headline, what happened to this African-American family does not constitute a hate crime, according to the Pleasanton police and the state Penal Code. So says the Times.

The state Penal Code defines a hate crime as a criminal act committed in whole or in part because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim: disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with a person or group with one or more of those actual or perceived characteristics.

Phil Patrick told the Times he believes that the election of Obama reflects a major change in the country's attitude toward race but that what happened to his family's home shows racism is still out there. "The country does still have a way to go. We're not there," Phil Patrick said. "There is considerable amount of strong hatred for someone to go to the extent they did."

As this news came out, the Associated Press, over this past weekend reported on incidents of cross burnings, school children (in Idaho) chanting "Assassinate Obama,” black figures hung from nooses, and racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

The Associated Press also quotes a 46-year-old white Georgia native saying: "I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change. … If you had real change it would involve all the members of (Obama's) church being deported," he said.

Wouldn’t you like it if this Georgia man and the members of his church were deported?

But my asking this question makes me complicit in his brand of hateful rhetoric. I apologize. Wouldn't it be great if we could get beyond all the anger and divisiveness that threatens the spirit of unity that we need in this community and in this country in these tough, challenging times.

Brian Copeland, the Sunday morning host for San Francisco’s KGO 810, asked this past weekend, during his 9-10 a.m. broadcast, whether Obama’s election would unite or divide us. He, too, dicussed news reports coming out over the weekend about expressions of anti-Obama hatred and declarations to cause the president-elect harm. You can listen here.

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