All across the world people are grappling with how to deal with hate crimes. Fifty people were killed last week in New Zealand after someone opened fire at two mosques. It’s in the aftermath of such heinous crimes that questions such as how and why and when will this end are the most prevalent.
Fatih Harpci teaches religion at Carthage College in Kenosha. He was saddened by the incidents in New Zealand but says hate can also be found here in Wisconsin.
He’s from Turkey and is Muslim and says he has not faced discrimination like he’s heard about here. Harpci says for him, his religion is not obvious to people because; for example, he does not have to cover his hair like women.
“Especially the ladies ... because of that visible identity that they have. Even for the Muslim, if they have a Middle Eastern background or is Pakistani or Indian or south Asian background, if they have slightly even darker skin, and plus if they have the beard than they will become a target too," Harpci says.
Harpci believes the only way to bring an end to hate is get to know each other.
"Let’s get together, let’s get to know one another. I think that’s the only way to see others as a human being. No less, no more but as a human being. Having that one-on-one interaction, having that social interaction," he says.
Under Wisconsin law, there are enhanced penalties for crimes based upon a persons race, religion or ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities. The above map outlines the areas where people will face an added hate crime enhancer if it is thought that they committed a crime based upon one of the covered areas.
Still, hate crimes are difficult to prove.
Elana Kahn, director of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Community Relations Council, says the number of hate incidents Jewish people face has been on the rise over the past five years.
An incident doesn’t rise to the level of a crime, and can include everything from hate speech to harassment online to the Nazi salute photo taken of Baraboo high school boys before prom.
Kahn says hate incidents are important.
"Hate incidents tell us what it’s like to live in a society as a member of a minority group," she says. "They help us know if you’re going to walk down the street and be yelled at or if you feel okay going into a certain neighborhood as a person of color or as a Jewish person. Does a man have to cover his Yamaka, his Kippah or do you have to put away the necklace identifying who you are?"
Kahn urges anyone who encounters any sort of hate to not ignore the issue.
"There’s no replacing the need to condemn hatred when we hear it. Period. Full stop. We must condemn it. And I am responsible. I as a Jewish American, I’m white, I am responsible for not only condemning anti-Semitism when I hear it, but for condemning all forms of hatred when I hear it. And I hope and I would actually charge everyone to do the same," she says.
There are 15 hate groups operating in Wisconsin, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Keegan Hankes, a senior research analyst with the organization, says across the country the number of hate groups are at all-time high.
He says there are three reasons, with the first being: "There’s growing anxiety among hate groups and their constituents over demographic change in this country. The census bureau predicts that by 2040 whites will no longer be an absolute majority in this country. And that drives a lot of the anxiety that undergird the ideologies that we track."
Hankes says the other two reasons we are seeing more hate groups is divisive rhetoric and social media, which is being used to recruit and radicalize people.
He says no one really knows how many hate crimes and incidents actually occur because they’re hard to track as nine out of 10 police departments across the U.S. report zero hate crimes. He says that’s hard to believe given what he sees from survey data and anecdotally.