Bringing Cultural Awareness to Your Community
It is pretty obvious to see that not everyone is the same as you. You are a unique individual, but there are certain characteristics, traits, beliefs, etc. that are common and tie you to another person or a group(s) of people. This isn’t a bad thing, but something that you can use to connect with others and find common ground. However, there is a line that can be crossed if you take these uniting commonalities to use that union against other people who are dissimilar to you. This is also known as a hate crime. Essentially, when you target groups that are different from you and you “hate on them” by being disrespectful to them or physically doing something to them that is harmful.
Usually a hate crime is because of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, color, disability, or National Origin. On the National Crime Prevention Council’s website, it says that the a hate crime can be referred to as “not only…an attack on one’s physical self, but it is also an attack on one’s very identity.” Bias, prejudice, and bigotry are the causing factors for hate crime. And, what the most astonishing thing to find out is that half of all hate crimes are committed by youth between the ages of 15 and 24!! Most of the time, these crimes are committed because these youth have been misinformed or are ignorant of the group they are targeting for their hate.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be this way: it is learned behavior. You, as a youth and adult, can change this and make your community accepting and decrease its number of hate crimes committed. More likely than not, if you look at things beyond the physical appearances, you will find that those who may look, think, or act differently than you can share some common interests with you. So, rather than staying away or making derogatory comments towards someone who is unlike than you, try to get to know them and their story. It may surprise you that you find a new friend or that your previous perception was wrong. Remember that you are as different to them as they are to you and a hate crime can easily be put onto you, so if you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others.
Another thing you can do is ask others to stop saying hateful things or demeaning comments about a certain group. Telling them that it is offensive to hear that is a way to stand up to hate crimes. Also, if someone continually does it, take your complaint to someone with authority who can deal with the situation in another manner. This may not change anything overnight, but you are making the world more peaceful and a better place to live by speaking up!