I don’t remember exactly when Lydia French was murdered, but I’m sure it was a hate crime. It had to be either 1969 or 1970, during the early days of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). What we know is that she let someone into her apartment and he shot her in the back of the head. We know that her father was a right-wing army officer, and that he was appalled to find what his daughter had become—not only a lesbian, but a member of that “commie” group, the GLF. After the murder he left the country and was rumored to be in Canada, hiding out.
The New York City police came to a GLF meeting, asking for bits of information that might help them find the perpetrator. No one came forward. I doubt if anyone knew anything, but if we did, why would we give it to people who might turn around and use it against us? The sworn officers were our sworn enemies. Gay sex was illegal in those days, as was cross dressing or even dancing close with a member of your own sex. The police frequently raided gay bars, arrested the patrons, beat us, and disclosed our identities to employers, landlords, and parents—which usually resulted in loss of jobs and homes, and alienation from family. If a gang of gay-bashers attacked one of us, the last thing we’d do is report it to law enforcement.
People didn’t use the term hate crime in those days, and the FBI didn’t collect hate crime statistics until legally mandated to do so in 1990. Based on my previous experience, though, I can’t put much credence in their numbers. This week, for example, the NY Times quoted FBI statistics for 2014: “…anti-Muslim hate crimes represented 16.3 percent of the total of 1,092 reported offenses motivated by religious bias. Antisemitism still led the way as a motive for these crimes, at 58.2 percent.”
Really? Since 9/11 the FBI and various local police forces have spent a lot of taxpayer money spying on Muslim communities and sending agents provocateurs to entrap people into crimes they would not have committed otherwise. (In a previous post, I wrote about the FBI trying to entrap me in 1970.) If I were a Muslim, I would want to avoid the authorities as much as possible. American Jews, on the other hand, have moved up the social scale and generally feel that the authorities are on our side, so we are more likely to report. Antisemitic crimes may not be more frequent than anti-Muslim crimes, just more reported.
The same is likely true of other minorities, such as blacks or Hispanics. Would you call the police about a hate crime, when you or a member of your family could easily end up beaten, jailed, shot, or deported? And what about women? Rape and sexual assaults are hate crimes, though they aren’t classified as such because misogyny surrounds us like the air we breathe. Most women don’t report rape because they know it’s likely that they’ll be blamed and the rapist will go free.
As long as we have a social hierarchy and cops who are paid to enforce it, as long as we have politicians who batten on sadism and encourage it among their followers, we won’t know the true prevalence of hate crimes. Or at any rate, we won’t get that information from the authorities.
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