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I work in a behavioural/special needs environment.  The children I work with are predominantly from the lower spectrum of our society.  One of the many observations that I have made is the presence of a persistent deeply ingrained streak of homophobia.  I hear the word fag or faggot or “you’re gay” several times a day.  I put a stop to it when it is in my presence, but it rages rampant for the most part unheeded and unchecked.  Some say I take this issue too seriously, that I should ‘lighten up’ or that these kids are just being kids.

Bullshit.

The CBC reports:

The victim of a vicious assault in south Edmonton says it was a hate crime and questions how police are investigating the attack. […]   Barry, who is a lesbian, was walking with five friends along 96th Street near 75th Avenue about 3:30 a.m. Saturday. Four men yelled at them from the other side of the street, calling them “dykes and faggots,” said one of the women […].

The language is not particular shocking, four young men raised within ‘acceptable standards’, just got a little crazy right?

“Barry, who was drunk, had stumbled and fallen to one knee. When she did, one of the men kicked her in the face.

It was just like someone drop-kicking a football,” Gouchie said.

The force of the kick flipped Barry on her back and knocked her unconscious for almost five minutes, Gouchie said. The four attackers, who appeared to be between the ages of 16 and 20, quickly fled, she said.”

A yes, true patriarchal representatives through and through.  Find a vulnerable target, spew your vicious hate if circumstance permits assault the member of the other group.  Run away, safe in your privilege and cowardice to continue your aberrant socially acceptable behaviour next time.  Would attention to hateful language have stopped this crime?  Who knows, but here is the valiant Edmonton Police Service galvanizing into action:

“CBC News has learned the investigating officer did not file a report. He also did not call in the dog team or Air 1, the police helicopter, in an attempt to track the four young men.

That is standard procedure for such a serious crime, according to one veteran of the Edmonton force, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He also said department policy requires officers to file reports on the same day, especially in a case involving a serious incident, such as an aggravated assault and potential hate crime.

With no report filed, police would have nothing to work with if someone called in an anonymous tip to Crimestoppers, the veteran officer said.”

Underwhelmed?  The victim certain is.

“Barry blames the attack on a mistaken belief that hate against gay people is no longer an issue. [ed. emphasis]

“I think in this day and age, we’ve become complacent and passive about educating the young to accept people’s differences,” she said, touching her swollen, bruised face.”Everyone’s under the assumption that we’re past all that, but it’s right here. It’s happening to people that you know, that I know and love, all the time.”

We have banished the hate from polite conversation and there was a great deal ballyhoo about that particular incremental change.  Has the underlying set of assumptions changed?  No, most likely not.

Being a woman and having a sexual identity that challenges hetronormative norms is still not acceptable in society.  You will be verbally abused and physically attacked.  The forces in charge ( H/T to the EPS for providing such a clear example) will not take you seriously and will deploy the appropriate amount of bureaucracy to make sure you are marginalized and dehumanized.

So, it is up to us to stop the hate speech wherever we hear it.  Call people on it.  It is a possible cofactor that enables people to build up the ‘courage’ to attack marginalized groups.  Polite society is one small victory for human rights, lets push for more.

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