By Aaron Sankin
The Hate Report / The Center for Investigative Center (8/3/18)
During the 2016 presidential election, Arjun Singh Sethi became worried about the state of hate in America.
There was a wave of assaults, vandalism and attacks on places of worship. People across the country, he saw, were being targeted on the basis of who they were and what they believed. Something important, and deeply disturbing, was happening, yet he felt the issue wasn’t getting the attention it deserved.
That realization drove Sethi, a professor of human rights law at the Georgetown University Law Center, to spend the subsequent year and a half traveling the country, conducting in-depth interviews with the survivors of hate. Those conversations form the basis of his new book, “American Hate.”
Hate will continue in America until we dismantle domestic and foreign policies that target and stigmatize vulnerable communities.
Amid flickers of hope, Sethi paints a bleak, often dispiriting, picture of how hate manifests itself and leaves a path of emotional and physical destruction in its wake. It’s a hard read, but an essential one for anyone looking to understand America in 2018.
In this week’s Hate Report, we talk to Sethi about how the criminal justice system is failing survivors, the invisible victims of hate and the discrimination he personally experienced while researching the book.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell me about some of the people you profiled in your book?
Khalid Jabara was an Arab American who lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His now-convicted murderer (Stanley Vernon Majors) for years had been harassing and disparaging the Jabara family, calling them things like, “dirty Arabs” or “ISIS.”
Majors ran over Khalid’s mother in his car. She sustained numerous injuries and was hospitalized for a long time. The suspect was arrested. Because of the suspect’s history of harassing and committing an act of hate violence against the family, the Jabaras requested he be kept in custody and that he not be allowed to post bond.
But, because a new assistant district attorney was appointed to the case, what ended up happening was the Jabaras received a call one day saying that Majors was going to be released on bond. There wasn’t anything they could do because it’s very rare for a judge to reverse a decision to allow a suspect to post bond. This suspect, who had run over Haifa Jabara, was released to return to the home next door to the the family he terrorized.
Khalid was in the house and heard some commotion outside. Majors was shooting a gun inside his house. So Khalid called the police. This is the day Khalid died. He called the police and he told them they need to come immediately.
The police knocked on the door of the neighbor. But he didn’t answer, so they didn’t do anything. They went back to Khalid and they said, ‘He’s not answering the door.’ Khalid implored them to enter the house, but they refused. Minutes later, Majors came to Khalid’s home and murdered him on his front doorstep, the doorstep where the police were just moments earlier.
The Jabaras feel, and I feel, that had Majors been black or Latinx, they would have kicked that door down. But because he was white, they didn’t.
In basically all of the cases in your book, the victims connected their attack to a long-standing history of their own communities’ experiences of racism. How did victims fit these specific incidents of violence and harassment into the larger experience of hate minorities regularly deal with?
America has a tragic history that we still haven’t reconciled. Our nation was built on a hate crime – the decimation and destruction of Native communities. And furthered by additional hate crimes and atrocities – including slavery and Jim Crow. Our Constitution described black folks as three-fifths of a person and didn’t give women the right to vote until 1920.
Some want to forget or rewrite this history, but we have to confront that terrible legacy. That’s the history that folks are remembering. Whether you lived 400 years ago or during the Obama years, hate has been a fixture for our country for as long as it has existed. …