Hateful holidays

Diverse city
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  December 12, 2007

I’d like to wish you all Bloodless Holidays. I’d rather say “Happy Holidays,” but with some of the nasty news lately, I’ll settle for no one getting harmed in a hate crime any time soon.

Now, this is supposedly a time of good cheer, peace on earth, and rampant consumerism. We should be celebrating, getting ready for or recovering from Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or maybe even Festivus (for you Seinfeld fans out there). But instead some can’t-keep-the-vitriol-to-themselves kind of folks are raising their hackles.

First on our list is Kendrick Sawyer, who went and fucked up Kwanzaa (and life in general) for a lot of folks in Bangor. According to reports so far, he allegedly told his doctor at the Togus VA Medical Center that he would shoot “any and all black persons” he saw attending a NAACP meeting at a Bangor church. He made similar comments to a Department of Veterans Affairs police officer. His threats were far from idle, as he owned a handgun that authorities later took away. Scrooge with firepower and a racial chip on his shoulder. Lovely.

End result: one less holiday celebration in Bangor, as the local chapter of NAACP canceled this year’s Kwanzaa celebration after the 75-year-old Sawyer’s threats. (For those not savvy to the newer holidays, Kwanzaa is a seven-day-long celebration during which African Americans celebrate the principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. It’s a non-religious holiday created in the 1960s, and many people who celebrate Kwanzaa also celebrate holidays such as Christmas.)

In addition, the Bangor NAACP has held its last several meetings in secret thanks to Sawyer.

Are you feeling the holiday love yet?

Closer to home, we have some other holiday hate heating up. According to Keita Whitten, the host of WMPG’s Mama Africa show — a weekly program that speaks to Portland’s diverse communities of color — people have been seeing an increase in the hateful acts toward people of color in Portland (and throughout the state).

OK, that’s anecdotal, but here’s something more concrete: A few months ago, leaflets were found near Deering High School (left by the National Socialist Movement) referring to Black people as apes. Just a couple months ago in the Waterville area a Black man reported being harassed by a white man sporting white-power tattoos. Some of the actions received news coverage; some received very little. In the Portland area, even the local NAACP has been mum about recent hateful activity, and I don’t know whether that’s self-protective wisdom or sticking their heads in the sand.

So what the hell is going on? Are hate crimes really on the rise, or is it that coverage is simply better than ever before, thanks to tools like the Internet? I don’t know, but we need not look any further than the ongoing Jena 6 case to see how the mainstream media can keep missing a major story until the online Joes start spreading the word and make it impossible to ignore anymore.

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