March 27, 2018 Springfield News-Leader
The remarkable nature of hate crime violence is its ability to hit hard on the intended victim and spread a nasty message to so many. Given the speed with which photos and information travel, an incident in Springfield, Missouri resonates far beyond. The community capacity to support victims at home, however, and lift up a message of togetherness and understanding is crucial. That’s why the Heartland Anti-Defamation League writes to applaud Springfield and its support of Shemeka Mitchell-Hickman and her family.
When alleged hate crime occurs, everyone has a role. Police response and commitment to investigate seriously comes first, especially to preserve evidence that might point to an incident being covered by the Missouri Hate Crime Statute. For the Mitchell-Hickman family, the collective community response from advocates to assist in removing the offending images and just be there is so welcome — because if one of us is a target, all of us remain vulnerable.
White supremacists, incidentally, do not commit hate crimes like this, so without more, the likelihood of anything in “organized hate” being a part of the crime is low. Hate crime prosecutions require evidence that the victim was intentionally chosen because of a connection, actual or perceived, to one of the protected categories. But immediately crucial is the response to the impact, which regardless of legal evidence, hits victims and the communities they represent and can have long-term impact.
Springfield PD has been a consistent reporter for the city. ADL appreciates that enormously. The next report, for 2017, will be published late fall. We look forward to learning the numbers because they help us educate about the incidence of hate based activity, create best practices to support victims, increase learning about targeted communities, and work together to build acceptance and respect for all.
Karen Aroesty is the regional director of the ADL Heartland office, serving Missouri, Eastern Kansas and Southern Illinois.