CommunityPam's House Blend

Tolerance on the retreat – cross burning is back in style

Burning Cross Left at Home of Interracial Couple on L.I. Yep. It’s a sign of the times, and this time it didn’t happen in the redneck, Red-State South. Fashionable sheets with pre-cut eyeholes will be available at a store near you soon. (NYT):

Awakened by a loud bang and the ring of their doorbell, an interracial couple peered out the front window of their Long Island home at 3 a.m. yesterday and saw a cross burning on the front lawn.

They said they immediately called the Suffolk County police, but by the time officers arrived, rain had doused the fire. The police removed the cross, which was three feet tall and made from the slats of a picket fence. By yesterday afternoon, the only remaining trace was a charred circle of grass outside the building, a two-family house in the southwest corner of Lake Grove.

Detective Sgt. Robert Reecks said that the police and the F.B.I. were investigating the incident as a hate crime, but that there were no suspects.

It was the county’s first cross-burning since 1998, when a black family in Amityville returned home from church and found a burning cross on their lawn.

The Lake Grove home is a modest green split-level occupied by the couple, who rent the first floor, and another family upstairs.

The couple, who were not identified by the police, said that they had known each other for 30 years, had been married for 22 years and had lived in the house for 8. But they said that yesterday was the first time they felt attacked because of their relationship. The wife is white, and the husband is black.

“My first gut reaction was, how could this happen in the 21st century?” said the wife, who spoke only on the condition that she not be identified because she feared another attack. “I don’t understand prejudice.”

Richard Eggert, who lives upstairs, said he was asleep when he heard a loud thud against the front door – a sound that he thinks was made to wake up the families.

“I ran into the bedroom, and with all the lights off, you could see the flickering on the front lawn,” he said.

By the time he raced downstairs to investigate, the husband was outside and whoever left the cross had vanished.

Yesterday afternoon, residents in the neighborhood, a middle-class community of rental homes, said they were baffled and unnerved by the cross-burning. No one had seen anyone set fire to the cross or drive or run away, and no one had any idea why the couple had been singled out.

Take a look at the map at the Southern Poverty Law Center and see the distribution of hate groups around the country.


While we’re on this topic, statistics on hate crimes from the FBI(AP):

Over 7,400 hate crime incidents occurred nationwide last year, more than half of them motivated by racial prejudice most often against black people, the FBI reported Monday.

Hate crimes motivated by anti-black racial bias totaled 2,548 in 2003, more than double such crimes against all other racial groups combined. There were 3,150 black victims in these cases, including four who were murdered, according to the annual FBI report.

The overall total of 7,489 hate crime incidents reported in 2003 was slightly above the number reported in 2002. Nearly two-thirds of the crimes involved in such cases are intimidation, vandalism or property destruction.

But there are also hundreds of violent crimes, including 14 murders. There were more than 2,700 assaults, 444 bias-related robberies, burglaries and thefts, and 34 arson incidents.

The report shows that crimes categorized as anti-Islamic remained at the about same level in 2003 — 149 crimes — as the year before. There had been a spike in such crimes immediately after the 2001 terror attacks, helping drive the overall hate crime number much higher that year.

By far the most hate crimes based on religion were directed at Jews, with 927 incidents in 2003, about the same as in 2002.

The report also found more than 1,200 hate crimes based on sexual orientation, including 783 against male homosexuals. That included six murders.

The FBI hate crimes report is drawn from information submitted by more than 11,900 law enforcement agencies around the country. Only about 16 percent of those agencies reported any hate crimes in their jurisdictions during 2003.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding