American Turban

Moving beyond “mistaken identity”

Senator Dick Durbin speaks at a press conference alongside representatives of a variety of groups at the Senate hearing on hate crimes and domestic terrorism last September (photo credit: Dosti.com)

Senator Dick Durbin speaks at a press conference alongside representatives of a variety of groups at the Senate hearing on hate crimes and domestic terrorism last September (photo credit: Dosti.com)

After the subway hate crime in New York a week ago, Laurie Patton, in Religion Dispatches, suggests an approach beyond that of education to combat hate crimes:

A second focus is necessary: we might view such confusions of identity as opportunities to make common cause with other victims of hate crimes in America. The fact that Erika Menendez included both Hindus and Muslims in her rage means that both groups continue to be vulnerable in the United States. The fact that Sen’s brown skin was the single cause of his being targeted means that religious minorities must continue to make common cause with racial minorities. The fact that Wade Michael Page included Sikhs in his murderous rampage, when his “preferred” white supremacist targets were black and Jews means that Sikhs, blacks, and Jews remain linked in the white supremacist imagination.

In our post-9/11 racialized environment, many of those who commit hate crimes simply do not concern themselves with specific identities, or mistaken identities.  In the case of the murder of Sunando Sen in New York, it was enough that he only looked a certain way. As Laurie Patton posits, while there is a need for understanding diversity, there is also an opportunity for those communities who are targeted and “mistaken” for one another to unite in combating discrimination.

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