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UA forum sparks anti-hate discussion

By Carrie O'Connor
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 23, 1999
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Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Compliance officer Lisa Ponder-Gilby speaks out on hate crimes in the Memorial Student Union Arizona Ballroom yesterday. The main focus of the brown-bag lunch meeting was to inform people what a "hate crime" is and what people can do about it.

As vicious hate crimes gain national attention, an NAACP official yesterday said Americans must join together to stop violence and discrimination.

"One group can't do it," said Ray Jarvis, president of Tucson's branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It takes a coalition."

Jarvis was one member of a conference, billed as "Hate Crime?," held in the University of Arizona Memorial Student Union's Senior Ballroom. The event was sponsored by the Diversity Action Council and African American Student Affairs.

University Police Chief Harry Hueston, a conference panelist, said there have been no reported crimes motivated by hate at the UA over the past three years. Many people don't report being victimized and hate crimes are difficult to define, he added.

The United States attorney general's office recorded eight Tucson hate crimes in 1997 and 15 in 1998. Approximately 30 percent of the individuals assaulted can attribute bias to the attack, said Dennis Noonan, a psychiatric social worker.

Hueston said police sometimes have difficulty deciphering when crimes are motivated by hatred.

"It's not like anything that we can get fingerprints on," he said. "It's very frustrating."

UA English and Spanish freshman Tamara Mulembo, who is black, said she was recently hit by egg in a racially motivated attack. As Mulembo walked home with a friend, six white men sped by in a car and tossed the egg at her, she said.

"It was not a prank," Mulembo said, adding that she reported the incident to university police.

Hate-related crimes derive from feelings of jealousy, greed or hatred, Noonan said. They are generally directed toward disabled people or those of another race or sex, he added.

"It's a lack of understanding of others, fear of the unknown," Noonan said. "Just touching another person, thinking that the color of his or her skin will rub off on you, thinking that you will somehow be attacked and that this is a dangerous situation."

Three types of perpetrators attack, said Noonan, chairman of the Anti-Crimes Task Force.

One group, classified as thrillseekers, are often teen-agers looking for a way to act out rebellious inclinations. Another category , known as "the mission seekers," are often psychotic and violent.

"These groups aren't as structured as the white supremacists," Noonan said.

White supremacists, the third group Noonan discussed, have been busy creating new websites and chat rooms for youth on the Internet, he said.

"They (the websites) are colorful," he said. "It's a fear. It's not just looking at a poster anymore."

The state of Arizona drafted legislation to protect victims of hate crimes in 1990. However, some argue that it is inappropriate to tell people that they must rid hate from their minds.

"It's very hard to prosecute people sending racial slurs via e-mail," Hueston said. "It's a matter of free speech."

Others, like Jarvis, wonder if legislation can do anything to stop racism.

"Laws are like a red light," he said. "You have to obey them. Laws don't change people's hearts and minds."