[UPDATED with Hate Crimes Down In OC, Or Are They?:] African-Americans Were Victims of One-Third of OC's 2010 Hate Crimes: Report

UPDATED, AUGUST 18, 4:48 P.M.: Update by Marisa Gerber.

Statistics show that hate crimes are down in OC, but nobody's overly convinced. 

There was a buzzword at this morning's event, where last year' hate crime report was released. What was the word? Underreporting. 

The report, which was published by the Orange County Human Relations Commission, says hate crimes fell from 77 in 2009 to 56 in 2010. The report, which is available online, also says two groups fell victim to more hate crimes in 2010 than they did in 2009. Which two groups? African Americans and Christians. In 2010, the number of hate crimes against African Americans went up by two to 18 and Christians were the victims of three hate crimes, instead of zero in 2009.

A panel of four people -- each representing groups targeted with hate crimes -- shared anecdotes and fielded questions at the report-release event this morning. They all agreed that the numbers are far from definitive.

Ginger Hahn, one of the panelists, is the executive director of The Center OC, a group that advocates for the county's LGBT community. "The numbers look low and I can assure you that's an issue of severe underreporting," Hahn says, adding that, at least within the LGBT community, people feel trapped, because often times they haven't come out to their families yet. "They never say 'I was bullied, cause I was gay.'" 

Edward Thomas, pastor at Christ Our Redeemer AME in Irvine and a panelist at today's event, says past inaction has trained his community not to speak up. "It's something that's continued to plague our community," Thomas says, "We don't feel anything's gonna be done, so why report it?" 

Despite their critique of the current situation, the panelists had some suggestions, too.

Hahn says she wants more training. "Frankly, I think it's horrible we don't have mandatory training at the highest levels." 

Panelist Kevin O'Grady, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, says he thinks the responsibility lies with each person. If you hear someone say something offensive, turning to the person and saying, "It's not OK to say that," can make a big difference, O'Grady says. 

Ameena Mirza Qazi, a panelist and the deputy executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, says she thinks an overall ratcheting down of hateful rhetoric is the key.

The report shows that hate crimes against Muslim/Middle Easterners dropped from 10 to eight between 2009 and 2010. That said, Muslim/Middle Easterners were the victims of 31 of the county's 46 reported hate incidents in 2010. Hate incidents share the same motivations as hate crimes, but don't escalate to include an illegal act and are protected under the First Amendment.
ORIGINAL POST, AUGUST 18, 7:40 A.M.: The Orange County Human Relations Commission this morning unveils a 2010 Hate Crime Report that shows African-Americans were victims of one-third of such crimes reported in the region last year.

As a for instance, executive director Rusty Kennedy pulled out a September 2010 incident. 

[A]n African-American woman and a white man were walking together in their apartment complex when they heard a white male on an upstairs balcony yell, "Interracial relationships are wrong!" and call the woman a "nigger."

The perpetrator then walked downstairs and confronted the couple, punched the man in the face knocking him down and then kicked his back causing concussions. The perpetrator then fled the scene.

Yep, that's a hate crime all right, and the OC Human Relations Commission has been tracking them since 1991.

Working with law enforcement, community leaders and community organizations, the panel works to prevent hate crimes, create awareness of their existence and assist hate crime victims.

The 2010 report will be released to the press at 10 a.m. today in downtown Santa Ana.

Besides Kennedy, experts helping to break down the data will be Commissioner Ken Inouye; Ed Thomas of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine; Kevin O'Grady, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County/Long Beach; Ameena Qazi, deputy executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations; and Ginger Hahn, executive director of The Center OC.

Look for the report to be posted at ochumanrelations.org.

You can follow the commission at that address or facebook.com/ochumanrelations or twitter.com/WeAreOneOC.


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