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Advocate Speaks About Hate Crimes Expansion

Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World

Published: 2009-07-22 : (Rev. 2014-03-29)

Synopsis and Key Points:

An editorial commenting on an Advocate who has spoken about new Hate Crimes legislation.

Main Digest

The United States Senate has approved an expansion of the federal hate crime law to cover not only gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity - but disability as well. The legislation is the largest expansion of federal hate crime protections since the original law was enacted after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.

Anita Cameron, Advocate for Disability Rights states, "This is a first step and I am hoping there is more to follow. Stronger legislation beyond this and to really deal with people who would commit hate crimes." Ms. Cameron works at the Systems Advocate Center for Disability Rights. A couple of years ago she was attacked by a man. Of the attack she says, "I fought back and he eventually got back on his bike and ran off." The police never caught the man who attacked her. Anita believes that he attacked her in the first place because he believed that she was an easy target.

Ms. Cameron went on to state, "A person has no control over being a person of disability or being a person of color or them being gay or lesbian, or transgender or whatever. You are going to hate someone for something there is no control over? That is just highly unreasonable and it's immoral and just don't do it, get yourself some help."

The one thing that dismays me about this legislation is that it makes no mention of seniors. Over the years I have lived in more than one city that meets the qualification of, 'large.' In the city of Seattle, where I spent more than twenty-five years of my life, I have witnessed the results of crimes against people who have identified as being gay. I have also seen the results of hate crimes against people with disabilities, and seniors as well. The Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle is at times not the best one in the city of Seattle.

I have helped more than one young, gay person who has been beaten, simply because they were gay. I have been blocks away from stopping thieves who have stolen purses and wallets from people who use wheelchairs in the middle of downtown Seattle. These thieves committed the crimes they did because they understood that the person using the power chair could not, 'run,' after them. On one occasion, during the Christmas Season, I had just gotten off of a Metro bus when two young men decided that an older woman was a prime target for a purse snatching. They simply ran away with her purse, knowing that this woman could not chase them. It wasn't enough that these thieves stole purses and wallets; to leave their mark - all of these people were hit in the face or body by the thieves who stole their property.

The city of Seattle is not the only place I have either witnessed or heard of such hate crimes. In what might be considered the smaller city of Bellingham, Washington the driver of a city van who was entrusted to transport people with disabilities raped a young woman with Cerebral Palsy, knowing that she could not fight back. The rape made the evening news and the paper. The city of Bellingham was greatly dismayed. The driver waltzed away with a slap on the wrist, essentially; he was, 'dismissed.' There were no charges filed against him.

These are the crimes that this legislation is meant to support. My hope is that the legislation will also extend into the home care environment as well. There are people who call themselves, 'Aides,' or, 'Personal Care Attendants,' or other such designations who are going into people's homes with the stated purpose of providing care for persons with disabilities and seniors who then end up abusing them. The crimes they commit amount to the very hate crimes this legislation is all about.

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