Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Racist vandalism in Franklin

WSMV is reporting on racist words painted on an electric box in a Franklin neighborhood named after KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest. The words are likely directed at the two African American families who live in the neighborhood.

"Oh, it's so hurtful; so hurtful. I cannot even let my kids go outside due to this. They cannot go outside until something is done," said Audrey Burks.

People in the neighborhood feel powerless to do anything about it and the police to have few options.

"I know at this point, there's really nothing you can do except to make it known to the rest of the community that this is something that's not acceptable," [the Rev. Anthony] Hendricks said. Police in Franklin took a report on the graffiti but said they believe it's an isolated incident. Police have not received any similar reports.

That's probably because they don't have adequate resources to deal with hate crimes. But if Congress had passed and the President had signed the Matthew Shepard Act last year, then they might be able to access the resources they need. On this blog, we've mostly talked about Shepard in terms of its addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to hate crimes laws. And most of the opposition has focused on the fear of making thought a crime, which the Act doesn't do at all.

However, the reason local law enforcement agents and communities in Tennessee should get behind Shepard is that it would provide more resources to fight all hate crimes regardless of their classification, including crimes of racial bias. Not only would money be available but other valuable forms of assistance as well. Consider section 4 of the act:

    (a) Assistance Other Than Financial Assistance-
      (1) IN GENERAL- At the request of State, local, or Tribal law enforcement agency, the Attorney General may provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or any other form of assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that--
        (A) constitutes a crime of violence;
        (B) constitutes a felony under the State, local, or Tribal laws; and
        (C) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the State, local, or Tribal hate crime laws.
      (2) PRIORITY- In providing assistance under paragraph (1), the Attorney General shall give priority to crimes committed by offenders who have committed crimes in more than one State and to rural jurisdictions that have difficulty covering the extraordinary expenses relating to the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
Notice the priority for rural jurisdictions. It's time to pass this legislation. Let's hope that Senators Alexander and Corker can find a way to get on board when it comes up again and let's hope that House and Senate Democrats can stop wrangling over attaching it to a defense bill.

Otherwise, we're going to be left with solutions like this:

The homeowners association is going to look into how to remove the paint.

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