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Just Us in Davis: Our answer to the noose and swastika

A noose hangs Friday, June 15, from the south goal post at Ron & Mary Brown Stadium at Davis High School. Winfred Roberson/Courtesy photo

A noose hangs Friday, June 15, from the south goal post at Ron & Mary Brown Stadium at Davis High School. Winfred Roberson/Courtesy photo

On Friday, June 15, a well-constructed, large noose was found hanging from one of the goal posts at the Davis High School football field. There are no suspects at this point. Though we don’t know the motivation of whomever put the noose there, we are responding as one voice against the centuries of pain and terror that this symbol represents and still produces today in so many of our neighbors.

As such, about 50 Davis community members, parents, educators, elected officials, and most encouragingly, young people, gathered last Wednesday to craft a community response to this crime. As Mayor Joe Krovoza stated during the meeting, “Davis will not be defined by this event, but by our community’s response to it.”

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During that meeting, we learned of a second hate crime: a swastika and the N-word were found spray-painted in the Olive Drive bike tunnel the same weekend. We cannot afford to wait to send a strong message to those perpetrators among us who are hurting us even as they are asking us: What does this community think about this? What will this community tolerate? Is this a place where this activity can take hold and flourish?

Davis’ history of hate crimes over the past 30 years, but perhaps most impressively, within the past decade, makes these valid questions for perpetrators to ask. Hate crimes happen here.

We wanted to provide Davis residents, parents and young people with several talking points and further resources they might use in talking with friends, neighbors and young people about how an informed, unified and vigorous response will expel from our community this degenerate, social behavior from another century. Please educate yourself and then act, with conversations, with leads to the police, with proactive education with your children.

Talking points:

* Though some like to engage in debate about First Amendment rights, or the validity of the definition of hate crimes, please be clear that both federal and California state laws define these acts as crimes. The victims are entire groups of people. These hateful acts send messages of terror, no matter the ignorance or intent of those who commit them.

* In 2011, it became against the law to hang a noose with the intent to terrorize in a public place, including schools. (California Penal Code 11411).

* It’s the bias and terror produced that define these crimes against constitutionally protected classes. Victims can be members of any religion, sexual orientation or race, including whites.

* Perpetrators will be caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In six out of the eight hate crimes perpetrated by Davis young people over the past decade, perpetrators were caught and prosecuted, often to the financial and emotional devastation of their families. Please warn folks that these have not been and will not be treated as “pranks.”

* Most hate crimes are committed not by card-carrying hate group members, but by thrill-seeking teenage and young adult men. They are typically not strongly committed to hate group rhetoric, though they know it and use it. They can be easily convinced that it is not worth the threat of prosecution and community attention and disapproval. (David Neiwert’s book, “Death On The Fourth Of July”)

Further resources to educate yourself and others:

* “Hate Crimes: Talking Points for Davis Adults, Educators and Students,” a two-page handout available at www.communitytotheclassroom.com

* “From The Community To The Classroom,” an award-winning 70-minute film created by Davis young people about Davis young people’s response to hate crimes over the past decade. View for free at www.communitytotheclassroom or on YouTube.

* 90-minute teach-in: “Aren’t All Crimes Hate Crimes? No!” sponsored by Davis Joint Unified School District. Available for viewing at the Channel 17 website, http://blip.tv/educational-access-channel-17-videoondemand

Other references:

* “Death On The Fourth of July: The Story Of A Killing, A Trial, and Hate Crime in America,” by David Neiwert. Palgrave MacMillian (New York), 2004

* “Hate Crimes Revisited: America’s War On Those Who Are Different,” by Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt. Westview Press (Boulder, Colorado), 2002

* “Addressing Hate Crimes and Incidents. A Resource Guide for Yolo County,” city of Davis Human relations Commission, 2001. http://www.city.davis.ca.us/meetings/human/addressing-hate-crimes.pdf

* Attend the Davis Human Relations Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Community Chambers at Davis City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

— Jann Murray-García, M.D., M.P.H., is a Davis parent and pediatrician. She shares this monthly column with Jonathan London. Reach her at [email protected] Signing on as co-authors to this piece are Mayor Joe Krovoza; Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson; Susan Lovenburg, president of the Davis Board of Education; Pamela Mari, executive director of student services for the Davis Joint Unified School District; Jacqui Moore, Davis High School principal; Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis; Ann Crook; Nancy Erbstein; Leanne Friedman; Canela García; Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald; Nikki LaVergne; Jonathan London; the Rev. Timothy Malone; Brooke Palmer; Gini Palmer; and Vajra Watson.

Jann L. Murray-Garcia

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