By Scott Tibbs, August 29, 2007
I got an e-mail in response to the letter I sent to Mayor Kruzan urging him to take a leadership role in promoting civility. Barbara McKinney said that the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance defines a hate incident as one motivated by bias based on "race, sex, religion, national origin, ancestry, color, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability."
This leaves out income level, age, occupation, and political beliefs. Age, by the way, is a federally protected category.
I do not support the city's practice of listing "hate incidents". I think it unnecessarily divides the community into protected groups. One major problem is that when you make a list of "protected" classes of people, it is easy to leave out others. While there are certainly incidents of real discrimination in this community, is it necessary to classify them?
However, if the city is going to make a list of "hate incidents", that list should include all hate incidents, not just the ones against groups that the City Council thinks deserve special protection. If we are to truly be a "safe and civil city", city government cannot decide that some people are more equal than others.
Last week's fiasco was motivated by bias against a political position, but was also based on bias against occupation. After all, the people making the presentation were only doing their jobs. They did not deserve to have an angry hippie protester screaming them. One presenter did not deserve to have a fanatic screaming only inches from his face.
There is a better solution. Scrap the classifications of "hate incidents" into multiple categories and simply list them all under one general category of "hate". After all, if hatred is not acceptable it should not be acceptable for any reason. We do not need to discriminate based on the reasons for the hate. This would more effectively promote the idea that each person is equally valuable, no matter what his race, occupation, age, religion or national origin is.
Will that happen in Bloomington, Indiana? Don't bet on it.