Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

The Hate Must End

Oct 12, 2010

Many of us recall the stories of our parents and grandparents – or remember the era ourselves – when people of color feared simply walking down our own streets.  With the ominous reality of lynching, kidnapping, beatings, harassment and constant intimidation, we walked in groups and were on alert whenever we set foot outside our homes.  Even in our very own neighborhoods, we approached daily tasks with a bit of trepidation and unease for we never knew when an attack would be unleashed upon us.  Today, all across this nation, Black and Latino mothers, fathers and grandparents are once again apprehensive in their own communities, but this time it isn’t the KKK, or gangs of White supremacists spewing hatred that keep us awake at night; it is sadly our very own children.

Seven Hispanic youth in the Bronx, NY were recently arrested and charged with a litany of crimes including unlawful imprisonment, abduction, assault, robbery, sodomy and menacing after a vicious anti-gay attack on two fellow teenagers and one adult.  The suspects, ranging in age from as young as 16 to 23 years old, will all be charged under the state’s strict anti-hate laws.  In this incomprehensible and horrendous attack, a 17-year-old Hispanic victim was dragged in to an abandoned building, stripped naked, sliced with a box-cutter, hit with a beer can and sodomized with the wooden handle of a toilet plunger, according to authorities.  The adult victim suffered no less, as the NYPD says he too was kidnapped, beaten for four hours with chains and sodomized with a small baseball bat.

Where do we even begin with such inconceivable violence by such young perpetrators?  How does a child become so enraged by the age of 16, 17 or even 23, that they could bring themselves to participate in such a malicious and sadistic act on innocent people?  And what are we teaching our children at home when it comes to tolerance and respect for others?

This past weekend, four Black and Latino students – this time ages 14 to 15 – were also arrested in Staten Island and charged with assault and aggravated harassment as a hate crime after repeatedly tormenting a Muslim student according to police.  In one instance, the Muslim student was abused so severely that there was blood in his urine, and he suffered memory loss, according to reports.  Unfortunately, this hate epidemic isn’t confined to the Bronx, Staten Island or even NY for that matter.  All across this country – in urban communities specifically – we are witnessing a disproportionate rise in crime, aggression and violent behavior among our youth.  And a majority of the time, this brutality is inflicted upon fellow young folks, or on others in the community.

To tackle hatred, we must first assess the root causes.  As unemployment continues to plague minorities at double – sometimes triple – the national average, a sense of despair and hopelessness overtakes the environment.  As parents and grandparents take on second, third and fourth jobs just to make ends meet, children unexpectedly become neglected.  As crime rates go up and adolescents turn to the streets for a sense of belonging, all of our futures hang in the balance.  We simply cannot forget our children, and we must do whatever it takes – building after-school programs, mentoring troubled youth, or just talking to a child who appears lost in this world. 

There is no excuse for the atrocious hate crimes that recently occurred in NY and the many others that go unreported or underreported every day in cities from coast to coast.  Yes, the odds may be stacked against you, and yes, life may be a constant challenge, but we must teach our children that there is indeed hope.  We must show them how to channel their frustration in to productive means of altering their circumstances and environments.  We can no longer fear our own kids; it is time to take back our streets. 

We lived under torment for far too long.  Let us not continue tormenting each other any further.