This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In late September 2015, a Salt Lake City interracial couple's front yard was vandalized with a swastika. The family is extremely concerned because in westernized nations such as the U.S., the swastika is a symbol that is associated with racism and Nazism and it is used by neo-Nazi groups and other domestic terrorist groups.
Recent FBI crime data reveals Utah law enforcement agencies reported 75 hate crimes within a one-year period. These crimes have taken place in 27 cities in Utah, with most of them occurring in large metropolitan areas. Last year, a Utah man pleaded guilty for threatening to kill an interracial family "if they did not make their African American family member leave their home." More recently, since January 2015, there have been 15 documented cases of suspected hate crimes in Salt Lake City.
This statistical data in Utah reveals that while many of our communities are welcoming, we do have a problem with people committing acts based on prejudice. These crimes have no place in our communities. As the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, "Hate in America is a dreadful, daily constant … They are eruptions of a nation's intolerance."
In 2002, Utah warmly welcomed people from various parts of the world during the Winter Olympics. Our embrace of various worldwide racial, ethnic and cultural groups reveals that we have the spirit to embrace difference. With that said, Utah should lead this nation in collectively stamping out race, religious, sexual orientation, disability, among other intolerance and hate crime violence. As Dr. Martin Luther King once noted, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
The members of the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission, a part of the Utah Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, chair of the Utah Multicultural Commission, believe that as citizens in this state, all of us must rally to a call of action in the face of hate crime violence.
We suggest that as local citizens concerned about hate crimes and other forms of violence, you can do the following:
• Organize town hall meetings in churches and various religious institutions, as well as community/civic centers to discuss strategies to fight against hate crimes, racism and other forms of discrimination.
• Hold teach-ins on various college and university campuses, as well as public middle and high school campuses, around the state of Utah in effort to raise awareness of the importance of diversity, equality, and social justice issues.
• Form coalitions of diverse groups to work together to expose hate crimes and discriminatory practices in housing, employment, and other major institutions.
These are a few of many suggested strategies. The goal is to make our state a much more equitable and diverse place that embraces diversity.
This op-ed comes from the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission (Adrienne Andrews, Forrest Crawford, Luis Garza, Rob Harter (Chair), Nkoyo Iyamba, Karen Johnson, Carla Kelley, Jasen Lee, Beth Martial, Ed Napia, Shawn Newell, Robert Rendon and Lavinia Taumoepea) and Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.