I'm a straight white man and I was a hate crime victim
“I hate to ask you this, but, are you gay?” Most of me wanted to rage at the question.
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The rock was the size of an apple. I heard it fly past my ear as I meditated.
When it landed with a crack, a woman near me in the park screamed. A girl, no older than 3, playing about 10 feet from where the rock came to rest, just stared, confused.
I looked behind me, from where the rock had come, and there, across the street, holding another rock in his right hand, was a guy suggesting he was going to throw again.
I called the police.
Now, let me back up.
Five minutes previously, I had never met this guy. I was sitting on a park bench when he approached.
“You know, you f-gs can’t take over this park,” he said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, startled.
He walked away, muttering things about “f-gs.” But, believing he was gone, I resumed meditating.
Then, the rock.
When the police arrived, they fruitlessly looked for the guy, who had disappeared into the city’s back alleys.
I wrote a report. But when the cop — professional, courteous, helpful — and I discussed it, the conversation became awkward.
“I hate to ask you this, but, are you gay?”
Most of me wanted to rage at the question.
“No,” I said.
“Well, if you were, I’d be investigating the guy for a hate crime.”
I nearly lost it, but said nothing.
A man had targeted me, believing I was gay. Had the big, heavy rock connected, my brain would have been damaged.
Because I’m not gay, however, to the cop this man wasn’t a potential hate criminal but just an annoying hooligan.
The definition of a hate crime varies across the world and also across Canada. A report from the Department of Justice notes each of our police departments works with different concepts of what a hate crime is and is not. Most victims of violent hate crimes, it notes, are ethnic minorities.
Concerning, that. More concerning, though, is how the cop’s suggestion that I needed to be gay for there to be a crime made me self-censor.
The justice report notes most victims of hate crimes are “not comfortable approaching the police.”
I felt no discomfort with approaching the police — unfortunately, that’s the privilege that comes with being white, male and straight. And yet, I had bitten my tongue, not having the energy to explain why his logic was flawed.
Another hate crime went unpunished. One can only imagine how victimizing that police indifference or ignorance would have been for someone who was targeted for who they really are.