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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 3, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 49
Arts & Entertainment
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Letters

INACCURATE HEADLINE MARS 'GAYS MAIN TARGETS OF HATE CRIME'

The article 'Southern Poverty Law Center: Gays main targets of hate crime' (Seattle Gay News, November 26, 2010) has a deceptive and inaccurate headline. It's not the fault of the SGN but rather is due to a misleading title in a news release from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

By SPLC's own analysis, only 17% of 'reported violent hate crimes' had a homosexual victim, while blacks made up 41% of the victims. It is simply not true therefore to state that Gay people are the main targets of hate crime. SPLC's analysis, which is confirmed by other studies, demonstrates that blacks are the minority most targeted by violent hate crimes. The statistics show that a black Gay person would be much more likely to be a victim of a violent hate crime because of being black than being Gay.

It is unfortunate that SPLC provided the flatly wrong headline. Perhaps it would have been too wordy to explain what its analysis really showed. The summary it opted to run with, therefore, was sensational but wrong. SPLC's explanation of its analysis, 'Anti-Gay Hate Crimes: Doing the Math,' is at SPLC's website, splcenter.org. What SPLC actually calculated was 'each group?fs rate of victimization compared to its representation in the population,' based on highly selective parameters of the data and assumptions.

When based on an assumed prevalence of only 2.1% of Gay people in the U.S. population, and when also 'excluding hate crimes against property' a significant, perhaps the major, component of hate crimes'it was calculated that they are victimized at 8.3 times the expected rate (17.4 divided by 2.1).'

While this kind of analysis might be useful, it is fundamentally different from the over-generalized and incorrect conclusion that 'Gays are the main targets of hate crime.'

Further, what if SPLC's assumptions are wrong? If, for example, Gay people are taken to be a mere 5.1% of the population instead of the much-lower 2.1%, the rate of Gay victimization falls to the point that Jewish people would then be ranked as the main targets under SPLC's methodology. What about the property crimes that were excluded from the study? Without those, no one including SPLC can make a blanket statement about 'hate crimes' without qualifying it somehow as 'violent' hate crimes or 'hate crimes against persons' as 'Doing the Math' does.

As a white Gay non-Jewish person, I am sympathetic to the issue of hate crime and am glad that SPLC is doing the work it is doing. In 2006 I did my own research based on Seattle Police Department reports and released a study, Bias Crimes and Incidents in Seattle (Seattle Gay News, 'Bias crimes in Seattle detailed in new report,' May 5, 2006). It is important that hate crime statistics and conclusions are reported accurately by the press, by advocacy groups like SPLC, and by researchers like me.

SPLC generally does good work in combating hate. I've been a donor for several years and encourage others to do so. In the last few days I have been in contact with Mark Potok, director of SPLC's Intelligence Project, but have not yet received a reply that addresses these concerns.

As I wrote Mr. Potok, one reason the way the headline reads is important is that many black people feel that far too much is being made of anti-Gay hate crimes relative to anti-black hate crimes. As one who works with statistical analysis of data in my profession, I can sympathize with them when a headline like this comes out. I'm sure if I were black, I would, when comparing a 41% anti-black rate to a 17% anti-Gay rate, be angry that it was then stated that Gay people are the more targeted group.

A misleading headline risks further alienating black people and others to the real plight of anti-Gay rhetoric and bias-motivated attacks. It also risks misleading Gay people into thinking we are more victimized than are black people, which is plainly not the case.

Both groups, black and Gay (with the understanding that many people are both), need to understand the reality of hate crimes so that neither feels unfairly victimized, either by the crimes themselves or by the analyses done after the fact.

Ken Molsberry
author, Bias Crimes and Incidents in Seattle, 2000 to 2005




DISMAYED BY CHOICE OF LANGUAGE

I was reading Chris Azzopardi's interview with Annie Lennox (SGN, 11/26) with interest, when I came across a question which dismayed me. Azzopardi asks, "Did you ever get gypped as a child?" referring to Lennox's birthday as being the same day as Christmas. The word "gypped" comes from the tired racist stereotype of Gypsies - otherwise known as Rom or Roma people - as thieves. I would hope that in this day and age, the use of "gyp," , as with other racist terms, would be out the door. In the future, I hope both Azzopardi and SGN will be more aware. For more information on the status of Roma people today, check out the blog of Lolo Diklo: Rromani Against Racism.

Sincerely,

Susanna Smith,
Seattle, WA

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