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Fighting Hate in Our Community

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Yesterday we read a news report about Megan Williams, a 20 year old African American woman who was kidnapped, raped and tortured in Southern West Virginia by six White men and women for over one week.


The details are nauseating:

“[Megan’s] captors forced her to eat rat droppings, choked her with a cable cord and stabbed her in the leg while calling her a racial slur... [t]hey also poured hot water over her, made her drink from a toilet, and beat and sexually assaulted her during a span of about a week.”

And yet, shockingly, Megan's attackers will not be charged with a hate crime.

This is a sad day for West Virginia and for the entire country.

In West Virginia, hate-based violence has become a daily occurrence and is rapidly increasing across the country as elected officials, courts, law enforcement officers, religious “leaders” and the news media perpetuate a “them against us” dynamic.

Someone somewhere must be benefiting from creating a climate of fear of “the other” because there is plenty of it going around.

Ask yourself, who benefits and why?

As out and open West Virginia lesbians, we are keenly aware that some of our neighbors are told in church each week that we are despicable sinners.

We know that every time our President calls for an amendment to the Constitution to “protect traditional marriage” he provides cover for these homophobic gay bashers.

When Lou Dobbs rails against illegal immigration and treats lies as news, he perpetuates violence and misunderstanding against people of color.

When the Supreme Court virtually overturns laws prohibiting segregation based on race, they are rewarding White supremacists who’ve been offended since 1954 when they were forced to sit, eat and attend school with those they feel are inferior to them.

As we go about our daily lives, we have the choice to shake our heads with disbelief about Megan’s story or do something constructive about it while the iron is hot.

Perhaps violence motivated by hate is more difficult for us to ignore because we, too, are vulnerable. However, as history has shown, violence and cruelty based on "difference" is indiscriminate. We are all unique in some way or another and eventually the person who is different may be -- you.

Remember the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller during Hitler’s reign?

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

We for one will not stand silently by and allow acts of violence and hatred to occur in our state, in our community.

We know that people – even those who are outraged – often fail to act because they feel isolated, hopeless and helpless. How can they, as individuals make any difference or say anything to change the hearts and minds of those who hate?

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Rainbow Law is Elisia and Carrie Ross-Stone, lesbian civil rights activists, life partners and grandmothers. We own and operate Rainbow Law, an online service offering legal information and free and affordable legal documents for gay and lesbian (more...)

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