Intolerance, hate crimes focus of vigil

By Djamila Grossman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Morgan Sim looked down at her plain white ribbon and the name that was printed on it. Thao Quoc Pham, a hate crime victim, was dead after being murdered in Pennsylvania.

“This allows me to connect with the reality of the situation,” said Sim, a freshman majoring in theatre arts and political science, while gently holding the ribbon. “It eliminates the wall between the world that we live in and what’s going on outside.”

About 15 students attended the fourth annual hate crime vigil last night, held at the Social Sciences building and the Old Main fountain.

Each student was provided with a small white ribbon that had the name of a hate crime victim written on it whose story could be found among the luminarias that were lined up at the fountain.

Residence Life diversity Committee Director Amanda Klaus, who helped organize the program, said the goal was to show people how to fight hate and discrimination, and how to recognize its often subtle presence.

Three tables provided information from Social Justice Leadership Center, the YWCA, an organization against racism and for women’s rights, and Wingspan, a Tucson-based center for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Students also watched the movie “Jasper, Texas” about James Byrd, a black man who was chained to a car and dragged to his death in 1998.

While the event offered students an approach to hard-hitting hate crimes, many said they had experienced smaller scale events in Tucson, but also at the UA.

“Discrimination is there. I feel safe, I feel welcome, but I stick out as an Arab and as someone who belongs to a certain group of students,” said Mohammad Naser, a philosophy graduate student and member of Social Justice. “There is something about the UA that attracts white students. Tucson itself has a relatively welcoming environment, but there are exceptions.”

Melita Quance, program coordinator with the Wingspan anti-violence project, said members of the GLBT community are the main victims of hate crimes in Tucson, and it is especially important to work with university students to address the problem.

“I think that having conversation like we’re going to have tonight is the beginning of the end of hate crime,” Quance said. “Universities are some of the most powerful places to have those discussions.”

Jayra Villa, a music performance freshman, said it was important for her to come to the vigil and she felt the organizers did a great job delivering the message about how devastating hate crime is.

“The movie just throws it in your face. They were being really blunt about it, opening people’s eyes,” Villa said. “Those things are happening now, that we thought were over.”