I happened to catch “All Things Considered” late last night driving home. The program that was airing was on hate crime statistics and how they are generally under-reported. It was the lead that caught my attention. Lara Pellegrinelli started her piece by talking about a murder of an Ecuadorian immigrant that occurred in Patchogue, NY in late 2008. It wasn’t until she reported that prior to 2008 Suffolk County (the county in which Patchogue is located), had consistently claimed zero hate crimes did I sit up and listen.
You see, I grew up in the next town over from Patchogue and often found myself in Patchogue, at either the local discount store or movie theater. My parents spent over 30 years of their lives in Suffolk County, and on more than one occasion during the seventies, eighties and nineties reported to the police hate crimes that had been perpetuated against our family or our home. There was the time that someone shot bb gun pellets through our windows, and then there was the time someone threw eggs at our house, and the all too numerous times our mailbox at our sidewalk edge was destroyed. These things only happened to us but never to our neighbors, and we were the only Asian family on the block. These were the events that got reported to the police, but not apparently classified as hate crimes. There was also the numerous times we were yelled at, whether it was “ch*nk”, or “go back to your country” or any other typical slurs, but we never spent the energy to report those incidents.
It was a complete shock to me to hear that Suffolk County had zero reported hate crimes prior to 2008. As Pellegrinelli goes on to explain most hate crimes are classified incorrectly, and hate crime statistics from the FBI are generally lacking. In Suffolk County’s case, the police are being investigated for consistently ignoring hate crimes against immigrants. In the FBI’s newest report on hate crimes for 2009, there were only 6,604 reported cases of hate crimes in the U.S., of which half were based on race and ethnicity. A number that seems low even to me.
So as I sat in my car last night in the driveway of my house listening to NPR, and I could feel myself getting mad, mad that the crimes against my family that my parents took the time to report to the police, weren’t ever recorded as a hate crime. As Pellegrinelli reported, the hope is that the police helped victims but just didn’t record the incident as a hate crime, instead just classifying it as vandalism perhaps. In my family’s case they took the reports, but they never found any suspects. Now I wonder if they were just ignoring us, and the other immigrant families that suffered hate crimes. I’ve had a day to reflect on the story, but I don’t feel any less anger and I don’t have any good ideas on how to channel my anger, other than to write this piece, so thanks for listening.