Hate continues to rear its ugly head in the District of Columbia. Since the reduction in the core Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit by Police Chief Cathy Lanier, there is no longer a regular posting of crime reports and the cases handled by the unit in the Washington Blade. These reports were important because they alerted the community to what was happening and where.
Because these incidents are no longer reported on a regular basis many, including me, were surprised to learn about five anti-gay attacks that occurred in the last two months. After the Blade and others contacted the Metropolitan Police Department, an alert was issued to the community in an effort to raise awareness and solicit information from the public.
But this alert was issued in August; the first anti-gay attack occurred on June 2 in the 1500 block of R Street, N.W., and then there was one on July 6, another on July 24, yet another on July 27 in the 1400 block of R St., N.W., and then one on July 30. There are other major incidents, one a beating and two murders that are potentially hate crimes, including the one reported in the Blade last week.
It is time for our community to demand concrete action. While Vince Gray recently met with GLOV and promised to work closely with it and other community organizations when he is mayor, our community can’t wait for a new administration before action is taken. We need to wake up the current one and tell them that we want action now. We need to hear from the mayor and the police chief each time one of these incidents occurs and we need regular updates on what they are doing about it and what they are doing to protect our community. We should know why it took two months to alert the general community from the time the first of these recent attacks occurred.
More than a year ago, Lanier made the statement on WTOP that because we are such an “out” community in D.C. that maybe we were attracting more of these crimes. At the time I said that was an outrageous comment and I still think it is. But if she really believes that, then what additional efforts have been taken to protect us because clearly we aren’t going back into the closet.
The District of Columbia has one of the largest and most open LGBT populations in the nation. Leaders in the community have fought long and hard to make the city LGBT friendly and welcoming. Those efforts culminated this year with securing civil marriage equality. Those in power have a responsibility to ensure that we are not targeted by those who still hate us. We know that hate is learned and no one is born hating. We must educate everyone from children in school to seniors about the LGBT community and how we are a vital part of the diversity in our city that has made D.C. a better place to live. We need to do that education ourselves but we must also demand of our political and supportive faith leaders that they recognize their responsibilities in this area.
Each time a hate crime occurs it is a teaching opportunity. I ask the White House, whose current occupants have said they want to be a part of the community in which they live, to look at the statistics on hate crimes in the District and use them as an opportunity to educate people.
It isn’t too much to expect, in the capital of the United States, that we have leaders who are willing to use the bully pulpit to speak out on issues of fairness, diversity and equal rights. I know that some actually do. Our delegate to Congress has been a beacon of light in this area. She never hesitates to address these issues. But others, such as the mayor, think it is enough to delegate the responsibility to low-level staff he rarely communicates with. We should no longer accept that.
A part of the responsibility of leadership is to speak out when people in your community are being hurt. It is not acceptable, as the mayor did at last week’s forum hosted by DC MAP and the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, to respond to a question on the GLLU and violence against the LGBT community by saying, “I am not an expert in public safety so I leave that to my managers do deal with.”