Fight Hate: Overview
New census figures reflect an increasing diversity that has the potential of enriching our society and increasing our capacity and productivity as a nation. However, the reality is our neighborhoods remain racially, ethnically and economically segregated.
Instances of housing-related intimidation continue to sabotage the daily lives of individuals, families, and entire communities. Hate activity in housing denigrates the safety and integrity of entire neighborhoods. The Leadership Conference Education Fund (LCEF) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) CommUNITY 2000 project-Promoting Fair Housing-Preventing Hate-has prepared this manual to help community advocates prevent and respond to housing-related hate crimes and build communities where each and every resident is respected and welcomed.
What is a hate crime?
Hate crimes include acts of violence, threats, property damage, or other criminal conduct directed against people because of their color, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability or because they have children. Housing-related hate crimes can be expressed against an individual, family, or entire group of people in or near their home or at a neighborhood-based institution, such as a school or religious facility. Examples of hate crimes or incidents include persistent bullying and name calling, racist or other bias-motivated graffiti or literature, vandalism, and other personal and property violence.
The FBI collects data under the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, which provides the best-although incomplete-national picture of the magnitude of the hate crime problem in America. The FBI's Uniform Crime Report defines a hate crime or bias crime as a "criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin." Although there is no official measurement of housing-related hate crime, experts agree that a large percentage of hate crimes are committed against victims in their neighborhoods.
What is the relationship between housing-related hate activity and housing discrimination?
Housing-related hate activity includes situations in which groups of people experience conflict within their neighborhood. Ongoing disputes, altercations, and an overall air of hostility between groups are sure signs that tensions exist in a community. Tensions often begin with a problem between two people and escalate to a situation where anger, mistrust, and intolerance characterize the relationship between entire groups of people.
Housing discrimination-all too prevalent in America's home rental, sales, lending, insurance and appraisal markets-is a major indicator of community tensions because it reflects the strong, underlying belief that certain people are not welcome in a neighborhood, city or region. Housing discrimination occurs when a person is denied the opportunity to live in the home of his or her choice because of race, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, sex, disability, or presence of children in the family. Housing discrimination is prohibited under federal, state and local law.
Because of a long legacy of housing discrimination in the US, most of us grew up in segregated communities. In fact, although the federal Fair Hous-ing Act was passed in 1968, housing discrimination still persists at an alarm-ing rate. Further, because of these segregated living patterns, most White Americans are likely to have attended schools where the majority of students are White, and most African Americans are likely to have attended schools where the majority of students are Black. Historically, when Black children attended predominantly White schools, their presence alone gave rise to racist conduct by some white students and adults in the community. The same patterns have held true for other ethnic minorities over the years. This lack of true familiarity contributes to the fact that most of us, on some level, hold stereotypes, prejudices and fears about one group of people or another.
New answers to an age-old story
>Remember West Side Story&or Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing? Both stories depict all-too-common scenarios where intergroup tensions escalate to the level of violence. Because real life stories like these are so common, communities need to evaluate the relationships between groups of residents and look for warning signs of tensions and hate activity. Local leaders and advocates should develop and implement new strategies for preventing tensions and responding to those that give rise to hate activity. Communities should never become too comfortable in their diversity-efforts to support positive intergroup relations and prevent housing-related hate activity should be sustained even in good times. This manual is a starting point to help you achieve this objective.