K-12 through higher education campuses affected
By Suni Jo Roberts
A shared recognition and concern for the uptick in hate crimes reported in Washtenaw County brought community members to the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College on Monday, Nov. 21.
Washtenaw Community College hosted the fifth session of The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Community Education Series, “Strategies for Responding to Alleged Ethnic Intimidation or Discrimination-Related Incidents in Washtenaw County.” Four different speakers took the stage to speak on hate crimes, hate incidents, and their effects on individuals, children, and the larger community.
Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry L. Clayton moderated the event. During the opening remarks Clayton spoke of the timeliness and urgency of this issue, warning about creating divides.
“It is really around the climate that we create for each other as we try to navigate all the difficulties associated with (not just the political environment) just life in general,” Clayton said. “We are better off when we pull together to navigate these things than [we are] separating off into different factions.”
Anthony Lewis, with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, explained that a hate crime is not attacking someone because of what they do, or because of who they are, but because of what they are; that they belong to a targeted group.
In Michigan, in 2015, the top biases included: anti-black, anti-male homosexual, anti-Islamic, anti-Arab.
Although official FBI crime statistics for 2016 won’t be released for another year, Lewis was able to offer anecdotal data about the increase in reported bias incidences. His office receives calls from locations around the state to report incidences of bias and hate crimes.
“Since Tuesday [Nov. 8] we have had approximately 30 locations of incidences that have been reported to us,” Lewis said. “Normal to this point in the year, we would only receive about 8-10 for a year.” These reports largely came from K-12 school districts.
Children are able to submit confidential reports on criminal activities or potential harm to:
Felicia Brabec, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, and private practice therapist shared her advice on helping children cope with the confusion and stress that this election cycle has evoked.
Michelle Slocum, an audience member, found this advice pertinent to her work.
“The impact on kids has been pretty apparent, recently,” Slocum said.
Slocum is the program director for an after school program in Ann Arbor.
“Kids have no idea, really, what’s going on, so it’s good as an educator to gather more resources,” Slocum said.
Audience thoughts and questions showcased the fear people have from the election.
Questions were asked about the possibility of local enforcement of a Muslim registry, and whether it’s safe to report hate crimes if the reporter has undocumented status.
Sheriff Jerry L. Clayton expressed doubt that a Muslim registry would ever get traction in Washtenaw County and said that although the Sheriff’s Department will “support other law enforcement agencies in carrying out their lawful duties,” the Sheriff’s Department does not directly work with ICE or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They recognize the importance of protecting undocumented immigrants from being targeted by perpetrators of hate crimes, Clayton said.
Erin Himrod, Ypsilanti Township resident, and audience member was happy with the event.
“I was very pleased by everything that I heard, I really liked a lot of the questions that were asked—really good information,” Himrod said. “Everybody presented really good information that will be useful to the community members, moving forward, to help protect the groups that are part of the target communities.”