A call against hate crimes

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On Sunday, it’s alleged that six Queen’s students were harassed, and one student assaulted, by a group of young men in Kingston. Due to the nature of the attack and the fact that the victims are visible minorities, Kingston Police have said the assault is a hate crime.

It’s good that the individuals accused of carrying out this crime are the main focus of attention in its aftermath. However, the Kingston community as a whole has a ways to go in terms of accepting diversity. The Queen’s campus is no exception.

Kingston Police should be commended for not hesitating to label the assault a hate crime and for quickly apprehending and charging suspects in the case. This swift action means that those who are similarly victimized will be more comfortable going to police with any allegations of criminal activity.

Unfortunately, there are far too many people who have stories about racist treatment in Kingston and at Queen’s. These anecdotes and Kingston’s high rate of hate crimes combine to paint an ugly picture.

For that reason, we hope this event will renew a conversation about how people of different backgrounds are treated in Kingston.

Queen’s students shouldn’t use this event as an opportunity to furnish the stereotype of an ignorant “townie”. There’s a recent history of racist incidents at Queen’s which include Islamophobic verbal assaults and vandalism.

The fact that these incidents seem to reoccur may have something to do with the reality of the demographics of Kingston and Queen’s. Both are largely white and fairly conservative. Racism might have more staying power in these environments.

There are some encouraging signs, however. In the aftermath of an incident this summer where a gay couple received threats of violence, the Kingston and Queen’s communities rallied around them in solidarity. This is the type of event that sows hope for the future.

There’s still a lot of progress to be made in Kingston. Regular people and city leadership should speak in unison against racism. Police should prosecute hate crimes aggressively to deter the small handful of individuals who would actually commit these crimes. We should all remain vigilant, as the behaviour seen this week is completely unacceptable.

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