Hate crime victim takes on homophobia in talk

Queen’s professor Karen Dubinsky, who received a hate letter in the summer, sheds light on pervasive prejudice in Kingston

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Danielle Perriera

Karen Dubinsky, who was subject to a hate letter alongside her partner Susan Belyea last summer, addressed hate crime and social progress in a guest lecture on Wednesday.

The event, hosted by the ASUS Equity & Diversity Commission, is the first in their First Lecture on Earth guest lecture series.

The audience included students, professors and members of the queer community as well as Dubinsky’s family. Over 100 people attended the talk.

Dubinsky and her partner Susan Belyea received a hate letter at their Kingston home on July 17, garnering national media attention after the author threatened the couple with “deadly serious consequences” if they did not leave the city.

The letter claimed to be associated with a Christian group from the “Deep South”. A second letter was sent claiming that young members of the group would “hunt them down” with BB guns.

Dubinsky, a history professor at Queen’s, had audience members read excerpts from the letter. She also featured a slideshow of people who expressed support for the couple following the letter.

Dubinsky said the presentation intended to “create a different atmosphere” by bringing the words out into the open.

“I am a bit of a hermit,” she said. “It took enormous willpower to stay on the big picture.” Statistics Canada states that, in 2011, Kingston ranked among the top 10 in the nation for the highest number of hate crimes.

Dubinsky said that these statistics should be critiqued carefully.

“Does [the statistic] mean Kingston is [a] hateful place?” she said. “Or, that the Kingston police are more aware of classifying crimes as biases or hate-related?” She said her favourite support letter states, “not all people in Kingston are ignorant”.

Dubinsky spent the latter half of her presentation addressing the recent hate crime against six Muslim students from Queen’s, claiming that her letter sparked more support than what has been shown to the Muslim community in Kingston.

The students were on their way home from a movie Oct. 6 when they were attacked by four Kingston residents, one them wielding a baseball bat. The perpetrators shouted racist remarks and hate-based profanities at the students, one of whom was left with minor injuries.

“I saw no huge public declaration of love for the Muslim community,” Dubinsky said at the talk. “The question is why?” She added that her involvement in the community, as well as her status as a white, educated professor may have made a difference.

“Don’t be afraid of difference, including class difference,” she said. “ Don’t think of ‘North of Princess’ as something to be afraid of or contemptuous of.”

Nicole D’Angelo, co-chair of the First Lecture on Earth speaker series, said that Dubinsky sparked a much-needed discussion on hate crimes in Kingston.

“I think the audience was really compelled at her honesty of what happened,” she said. “A lot of times people don’t want to speak on [hate crimes] … but she made everybody feel better about it.”

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