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Editorial: Small steps keep social awareness alive

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 18, 2000
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In past weeks, the university and the community have taken what seems to be a more pro-active stance against hate crimes- one that will prove to be far more effective.

As recently as last semester, the university community was stunned by a hate crime, combated the forces of evil for a fleeting moment and let the issue dwindle - until a similar or more appalling crime was committed.

Mere months ago the University of Arizona was home to three large-scale hate crimes - an assault on an Asian-American student, a threatening letter to a Hispanic student group and a burning cross left in front of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. building.

In January, the Department of Multicultural Programs and Services started a campaign attempting to combat bigotry and take a stance against hate crimes.

They made buttons.

DMPS did not pretend the buttons would solve the problem or prevent future hate crimes. But they did not take another step in the fight against intolerance since the "STOP HATE" buttons.

And the hate crimes haven't stopped.

After a 20-year-old gay UA student was stabbed last week, ongoing discussions have opened up a city-wide fight against injustice.

A UA professor, the local chapter of the Lesbian Avengers gay rights organization and several other activists organized a march in response to the stabbing.

It was the next step.

The march - which drew 1,000 people - came to a halt at the UA Mall stage, where an open microphone invited people to share stories of anti-gay hostility.

Some stories served as a reminder to the discrimination that gays face daily. Some stories were utterly horrific, describing the violent outlashes against people based on one fact - sexual orientation.

But the demoralizing acts these individuals sustained served as a link for the audience and a beacon for the rest of Tucson.

The log of stories will be given to legislators and will hopefully promote more education regarding tolerance toward gay issues.

This was step three.

Wednesday night about 100 people kept the communal vigilance and social consciousness alive.

In a standing-room only event at Wingspan, Tucson's gay community center, a panel of attorneys and Tucson Police Department representatives addressed the legalities and importance of enforcing hate crime laws.

It was yet another step toward curbing hate crimes.

Tucsonans need to continue this kind of education - in addition to opening up new forms of educating each other.

Without these small steps, Tucson faces a frightening future.

People will forget about the flames in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. building. People will forget about the Asian student and the threatening letter.

People might even forget a college student was stabbed in his back because he is gay.

But we must not let this happen. Tucson must keep the social awareness alive - even if it's through baby steps.

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