Neighbors or Enemies? > Living with Hate

Los Angeles

Kripa Upadhuay

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Former Program Coordinator, South Asian Network

SAN is equipped to deal with hate crimes because we’ve been doing it for several years. In 1998, a businessman was assaulted by four youths, white kids aged 13-19. They were sentenced to do community service at SAN. We showed them movies and talked to them about Gandhi.

We were just starting a domestic violence program back then. One of them told us a friend of his had been molested, and we were able to get her to a counselor. Another one we referred to a health clinic for people with no insurance. At lunchtime we would give them South Asian food. Even after their sentence was completed, they still kept dropping by.

After 9/11, we sponsored community town hall forums. It empowered the community. Within the South Asian community people are ashamed to be victims of hate violence. After the forum we got a lot of calls from people who were victims and had never reported it.

We’re challenging the community as well as the government. At one town hall, we had someone from the INS answering questions. Both the INS representative and we realized the depth of anger and resentment people felt toward the government. People fear anything that has to do with the government – their view is that there is no answer and no hope for them.

Just after the passage of the Patriot Act, representatives of the FBI and the Justice Department came to defend it, appearing on a panel with civil rights attorneys. People stepped back and said, “it’s ok for us to challenge this.”

In immigrant communities, people make no distinctions between different branches of law enforcement. There is an overwhelming fear of reporting anything to law enforcement – and an appalling lack of sensitivity coming from law enforcement.

We’ve provided training to law-enforcement agencies about community perceptions. Police think they’re there to serve the community. I ask them, what service have you rendered? Do you even talk to minority business owners?

What are they doing to the psyche of the entire community?