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Press Statement on President Obama Signing of Hate Crimes Law

By October 28, 2009 No Comments

For Immediate Release
October 28, 2009

Contacts: Eun Sook Lee, NAKASEC, 323-937-3703 x 205
Becky Belcore, KRCC, 773-588-9158
Dae Joong Yoon, KRC, 323-937-3718

    Statement on President Obama Signing of Hate Crimes Law
    On Behalf of NAKASEC and its Affiliates, the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center and the Korean Resource Center

On June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American man was beaten to death by two Detroit autoworkers who called him a “Jap” and blamed him for the unemployment in the Detroit auto industry. The two men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, were charged with second-degree murder. They served no jail time and were given three years probation.

On October 7, 1998, a 21 year-old college student, Matthew Shepard was robbed, tortured, kidnapped and murdered by two men – Henderson and McKinney – in Wyoming. The two men are believed to have targeted Matthew because he was gay. Henderson and McKinney were not charged with a hate crime, as no Wyoming criminal statute or federal legislation provided for such a charge.

On July 14, 2008, Luis Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant, was beaten to death in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. His two teenage attackers were convicted of simple assault.

These are just some of the stories that bring deep significance to the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Today, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. For over 12 years, civil rights and advocacy organizations, along with community leaders and members, have worked to expand the federal definition of a hate crime to include attacks on one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability. The Hate Crimes Act will do just that, as well as lift a requirement that a victim had to be attacked while engaged in a federally protected activity for it to be a federal hate crime and allow the federal government to help state and local authorities investigate.

This important achievement is a result of the work of many communities across the country who witnessed the absence of justice in the brutal deaths of Matthew Shepard, Sean Kennedy, Luis Ramirez, and many others. Hate crimes are a form of violence that target entire communities.

President Obama’s signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a meaningful step towards countering hate and violence with coordinated efforts from local and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and pursue crimes of bias. We have a role to play in this work as well. It is our communities, who began the work of opposing hate crimes and other forms of discrimination and prejudice that must also work to educate and engage our communities to build a unified and tolerant America.

In 2007, there were a total of 8,152 hate crimes reported with 54% motivated by racial bias, 18% by religious bias, and 16% by sexual orientation bias. And according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, under half of all hate crimes are reported to police.

Click here to read President Barack Obama’s remarks delivered at bill signing.

    ###NAKASEC is a national organization founded in 1994 by local Korean American community organizations to project a national progressive voice and promote the full civic participation of Korean Americans as part of a greater goal of building a national movement for social change.