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Why Hate Crimes Matter: On the Recent Spike in Anti-Gay Violence in Manhattan

May 24, 2013
The makeshift memorial to hate crime victim Mark Carson, at 8th Street and 6th Avenue.

The makeshift memorial to hate crime victim Mark Carson, at 8th Street and 6th Avenue.

This is part two of a two-part series on the murder of Mark Carson. Click here for part one.

Mark Carson’s murder hit particularly close to home for me both because of the seriousness of it and because it took place directly on the path of my daily commute, with the alleged shooter running the length of it and then being arrested between NYU Law buildings. A friend of mine witnessed the shooting and identified the alleged shooter, Elliot Morales, for the police, and a number of friends saw some part of the incident, especially the arrest (which took place against the main class building and across the street from a dormitory.)

Original photo: NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/nyregion/killing-in-greenwich-village-looks-like-hate-crime-police-say.html

Original map: New York Times

Serious attacks like the one on Friday are particularly troubling because more minor hate incidents are so frequent (as I have attested to in many posts). While I suppose anyone could always be carrying a gun or prone to extreme violence, that seems much more real when it has happened multiple times in your neighborhood in the past few weeks.

Hate crimes are insidious because they instill fear in an entire community. (Such is the rationale behind contentious hate crimes legislation like the Matthew Shepard Act.) That may sound trite, but it’s true; I now think twice before going out at night, and a number of LGBT people have told me they’re doing likewise. It has long been a fear of mine that me or my partner will fall prey to such attacks — that was part of my motivation for studying martial arts — and that fear, which I had largely conquered, is now more real than ever. As scholars have noted, such as Dr. Ilan Meyer in the Prop. 8 (Perry) trial, events like hate crimes send a very real message that individuals within the target community are not welcome, respected or valued. Recent research indicates that statewide same-sex marriage bans have very real, very negative effects on the mental health of LGBT residents; it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to think a spate of hateful violence must also take its toll on the community.

A minority of writers seem to be opening their eyes to the danger of anti-gay violence for the first time; on Out.com, Sam Lansky describes finding himself fearful of violent homophobia for the first time. His writing is reminiscent of gay people I’ve met, generally white men, who have insisted that we’ve made “enough” progress and that, with New York recognizing same-sex marriage, the battle is over. But it’s important to remember that for the vast majority of Americans, and even New Yorkers, inequality, harassment and physical violence are daily realities. Indeed, the LGBT Center is opening a new location in the Bronx. As a Center official said at the rally, “Hate crimes happen in the Bronx all the time and we don’t get a press conference.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Shep permalink
    May 26, 2013 7:58 pm

    When France was on the verge of gay marriage, I wanted to take the anti-gay protest that rose up in response as a symptom of positive change: that in more and more places, it’s the people who support equality in power and those who fight it on the streets.

    I want to believe that these crimes in NYC are similarly the last, desperate responses of a worldview whose time has passed. These are people whose bigotry is now so well-recognized, so naked, that they can no longer be at peace with themselves, and turn to violence in response to their increasing loss of place in society.

    It’s terrifying that these people still exist, and in NYC of all places (although I guess NYC is simply so massive and so crowded that statistics would place a few there), but I want to believe that what we’re experiencing is the death throes of their bigotry.

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