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Human Dignity Week breaks down hate crimes

By Brittany Lewis
On October 25, 2010

In honor of Human Dignity Week, a workshop was held on Thursday, Oct. 21 to discuss hate crimes. The hate crime workshop was held by Public Safety Director Bob Wachowski, State's Attorney Matt Fakhoury, and Chicago Police Department Hate Crimes Investigator Mike Ghuneim. Fakhoury also teaches law and society classes at DePaul University.The three collaborated to discuss different types of hate crimes, reasons behind these crimes, and most importantly, consequences for those who commit hate crimes.

A hate crime is identified when race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, and national origin etc. are the motivating factors in committing a crime.

Ghuneim discussed the different types of hate crime offenders, which include thrill-seeking, defensive, retaliatory, mission, and environmental. Ghuneim emphasized how a negative environment is often a great part of hate crimes.

"Everything you say and you do affects that child. So if you come in that house spewing hate about co-workers, about drivers, etc., you are breeding a new generation that hates. And they have no, zero life experience to back that up except what you say," said Ghunheim.

Ghunheim mentioned that often hate crimes occur when inter-group conflicts are escalated around the world, as well as when there are economic hardships, and around significant dates like religious holidays. He also mentioned that hate crimes can and do occur on Facebook, Twitter, in e-mails, and in text messages.

Fakoury aggressively prosecutes hate crimes and emphasized the significant penalties for committing such a crime. In the majority of hate crimes, the perpetrator is charged with a class four felony; usually resulting in one to three years in state prison.

Fakoury also mentioned that it can be difficult to decipher between a hate crime and a regular crime.

"Usually and often we have to deduce his mental state from his physical actions. Did he say something before the crime, during the crime to the victim? Were there any witnesses to the crime? Did he say "I'm gonna look for this group of people or this particular race or sex" or whatever? I'm gonna go after that before this crime occurred. I can use all that against him in court," said Fakoury.

When deciphering, he also looks at factors such as if the crime is being committed among different racial groups, tensions and discriminations in the community, and pays close attention to activity during particular holidays. For example, hate crimes toward Arab Americans have risen significantly since the September 11th attacks.

Cynthia Summers, the Associate President of Student Advocacy and Community Relations, urged students to talk to someone and emphasized the importance of letting someone know if they are a victim of a hate crime.

Scott Tharp, Associate Director of the Office of Diversity Education, was also in attendance and encouraged students to visit their Web site Tharp said the Web site is a "one-stop resource" for how to report crimes and get in touch with Public Safety.

He also added that as a Vincentian university we need to understand the importance of respecting human dignity.

"It's all about human rights," he says.

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