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Friday, November 5, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 54

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Media 'stereotypes' may play role in hate crimes

By Audrey Warren
Senior Staff Writer

The media may play a role in perpetuating hate crimes, speakers said at a Thursday evening forum held by the NAACP's UH chapter.

The "Erase the Hate" forum brought together speakers from campus and the community to discuss the issues surrounding crimes of hate.


Gary Norman, a hate-crime specialist at the Montrose Counseling Center, speaks at a forum on hate crimes Thursday evening in the Cougar Den.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

"I think the media plays a role in that it's creating and perpetuating stereotypes," said Gary Norman, a hate crime expert at the Montrose Counseling Center. "It lays the groundwork that it is OK to single people out.

"My challenge is to look at the situation where we see subtle forms of hatred in our daily lives -- recognize really subtle things that go on day in and day out," Norman said.

An array of representatives from Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán, the Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Alliance and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People spoke to an audience that filled the Cougar Den for the forum.

They discussed crimes of all types, focusing not only on high-visibility cases but also those that receive little media attention.

MEChA representative Travis Morales made the distinction between "official" and "unofficial" hate crimes, saying that official crimes often involve some sort of authority, while unofficial ones -- like the 1998 murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard -- were committed out of one individual's hatred for another.

Norman briefly highlighted the case of Shepard, who was apparently beaten, robbed and left to die because he was openly gay.

Aaron McKinney, one of the men convicted in the slaying, was sentenced this week to life in prison with no chance of parole after a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty.

But the speakers said all hate crimes, not only those that grab the media spotlight, should be stopped because of their scope.

"Hate crimes are different because they are intended to send a message," Norman said. "These sorts of crimes are against a community."

Norman said the subtle forms of hate must be stopped in order to stop hate crimes.

Marilyn Dogan of the Third Ward Shape Community Center agreed, saying it is evident in society how little jokes that may seem harmless set bad examples for greater acts of violence.

"I want to commend the University for putting a seminar like this together," Dogan said. "Society is what we make it, so when we see something wrong, we need to do something about it."

She also pointed to the lack of minorities covering news on television as sending negative messages.

"The news's job is not to create a bias, but to bring (the news) into our living rooms," Dogan said.

Some students in the audience said they believed comedy skits on television programs like Saturday Night Live that make fun of homosexuals and minorities are not a joking matter and may escalate problems in already sensitive areas.

The important thing, said Jimmie Thomas of the Metropolitan Volunteer Program, is to give people a voice to speak out against such crimes.

"I think the importance of a forum like this is for students' opinions to be heard," Thomas said.
 

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