Monday, February 28, 2005

Hate hath no bounds

A trend I've increasingly been reporting on is the seemingly emboldened white supremacist movement, particularly the way it is targeting teens for recruitment.

One of the predictable corollaries of this trend is that, increasingly, minority youngsters will be the targets of these haters.

Two reports out of California make clear that white-power hate groups have no boundaries when it comes to who they'll target. Even little kids. Of course, I've known this for some time; I remember how Keith Gilbert of the Aryan Nations used to harass a mixed-race family in Coeur d'Alene.

The most recent report involved threats against Indian teens on the Paiute Reservation in northeastern California, as Indian Country Today reported:
BISHOP, Calif. - Shock, fear and anger rocked the Bishop Paiute reservation recently when letters left at the tribe's education complex threatened to "kidnap, rape and dismember" young Paiute girls, aged 5 to 9.

Three original letters, typed in red ink with a cover sheet signed ''KKK,'' were left at the tribe's gymnasium and on the baseball field adjacent to the tribe's Head Start program and daycare center. Other copies were tossed on nearby roadsides, according to the tribe's chief of law enforcement services, Cal Stafford.

The letters sparked a firestorm of outrage and anxiety on the reservation and in the surrounding city of Bishop, a small rustic town in the Sierra Nevadas.

Addressed to the Paiute tribe, the letters promised retaliation for ''your half-witted bucks taking another white life'' and alluded to crimes involving tribal members dating back a decade. The letters were turned over to the Inyo County Sheriff's office, which notified the FBI.

"This is a terrorist threat," said Bishop Paiute Vice Chairman Sandra Warlie, who spearheaded efforts to inform and protect tribal members. "Whoever did this meant to put fear in our hearts by targeting our children. We are stepping up security measures and we will do everything we can to protect our people."

The threats are believed to be retribution for the death of a white liquor store manager, Dave Pettet, 48, who was allegedly shot by tribal member Wayne Bengochia in an alcohol-related incident four days before the letters were found. Begochia, 48, was charged with homicide and is awaiting trial.

The problem is that these events are not "isolated incidents" that are occurring in a vacuum. They're occurring in a context in which open hostility to Native Americans -- embodied in Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger's remarks that Indians were "ripping us off" -- are becoming part of the public dialogue. As Indian Country Today's editors put it:
Radio's hate-talkers agitate the masses with euphemistic language, charging at the ''multi-culturalists'' (or as Rush Limbaugh puts it, the ''diversity crowd'') when they really mean the non-mainstream, when their anger is actually directed at the non-white (and white) people who still understand the nature of racism. In some cases, politicians join in the game by chastising whole groups while attacking on a given issue. (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's infamous characterization of Indians as thieves in his perhaps careless phrase ''The Indians are ripping us off'' is a case in point.) The intent of this hardball game is, of course, to score on the opponent, to pound the other guy into submission.

It is mostly just a game for Schwarzenegger and for most media hounds and politicians who play it, but it is a game that can have serious consequences for communities.

Meanwhile, in the Santa Clarita Valley, haters are targeting little kids too:
The valley has been roiled over the last few months by claims from at least half a dozen African American families that their children have been targets of intolerant, even racist, behavior from their white peers. They say the white teens have continually bullied, harassed and attacked their children at school and off campus for no apparent reason, other than the color of their skin.

The attacks, they said, occurred when youths were walking home from school, going to the park or visiting friends. The incidents have shaken the community because the alleged assailants are not skin-head outsiders but other teenagers who live among them in the pricey subdivisions.

"I need to be making college plans for my kids, and instead I'm fighting this mess," said Valencia resident Robin Williams-Nohara, who says her three sons have been harassed and beaten by white teenagers. "I can't believe this is happening in L.A. County in 2005. No way."

Williams-Nohara is African American and works as an infant-care specialist in West Los Angeles. Her Japanese American husband, Seiji Nohara, is a customer service representative for United Airlines. They moved to Valencia from Monterey Park four years ago, hoping the good schools and suburban environment would help their children excel and go on to college.

At some point, California's political leadership is going to have to step to the forefront and take an aggressive stance against these crimes. The fact that they have not so far, in fact, may speak even more loudly.

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