By Stacy Thacker, University of Montana
In 2010 a young Navajo man named Vincent Kee was a victim of a racial hate crime in Farmington, N.M. He had swastika's branded into his skin and shaved into the back of his head. Kee is mentally disabled and wasn't able to defend himself from his attackers.
In 2011 Vernon Traversie, Lakota, awoke from open-heart surgery in a South Dakota hospital to learn from his nurse that he had been the victim of a hate crime. Traversie is blind and couldn't see the damage of what looks to be a "KKK" signature carved into his skin, scars that did not come with the routine medical procedure.
While there can be some argument as to whether the Trayvon Martin case was a hate crime or not, it falls under the idea of race and the ugliness it can bring when people are unaware of each other.
Race isn't always the issue nowadays, while times change so do the problems we face. In 2010 Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate made his sexuality public by secretly streaming video from his web cam of Clementi kissing another young man. Clementi was gay and his privacy and rights were hindered. This situation is a case of ignorance and fear of somebody different.
Hate crimes do not just affect Native Americans, many nationalities are being targeted based on skin color, religion, sex/gender and place of origin. Characteristics that people can't change and personalities that people are proud of are also issues. You have to be proud of who you are and where you come from because it’s the only "you" that exists. But sometimes it’s hard to do when people aren’t open minded.
While people face the realities of the world outside of theirs, a question of identity comes to play and this can be confusing. As a Native American I find it hard sometimes to be off the reservation and having to face people who don't look anything like me. However, with an open mind I've been afforded the opportunity to make it a positive experience and those around me have accepted me with open arms.
It’s strange to see that hate crimes have become more prominent in the last few years. They never really went away but they have sprung up and are becoming a hot issue again.
I believe this is because we live in an age where we are able to be open about our thoughts and sexualities. The older generations have in many ways started this and we are able to keep it going but in more of an extreme way. Many people don’t like this and don’t have the capacity to either ignore it or join it so they retaliate and don’t take the time to become informed.
While we live in a world of open thoughts and ideas we are constantly fighting the closed minded and trying to educate them. In recent years I have seen programs and events for just about everything you can imagine going on trying to get their name and organization out there, and their soul purpose is to educate. It’s best to educate those who don’t know and while it’s not always comfortable it’s a chance to get ideas out there in a safe way. Open forums are a great outlet for all sides to get out their frustrations without violence.
I understand this isn’t for everybody and you can’t convince people to come together but not liking a human being based on appearance or personal choices is something we can't afford. The old ways of thinking have to give a little and the idea of acceptance has to become a choice and not something people push aside.
We are one people and we live on one planet, why are we fighting each other? There are problems we all face and they are all different but it can change. It won't happen over night, it won't happen with just one or two people but they are a start. The judgment out weighs the critical thinking and as I read these stories and hear about so many more, it makes me sad to know that we still live in an age where people will hurt each other in this capacity.
Stacy Thacker (Navajo) is from Navajo, N.M.