Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Importance of a Being a Statistic

If the blog post title didn't stop you, good, because this isn't going to be a dry rant about  margins of error or interval variations, it is about blood.  About the blood spilled that is never recorded in the government statistics that measure violence and crime against specific minorities.

If you recall the debate prior to the passage of the James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill here in Texas you will understand.  Even the Texas Legislature, one of the most mentally challenged bodies in the country understood that there was a level of violence and prejudice that qualified s a "hate crime".  What they did not or refused to understand was that specific groups needed to be enumerated for protection.  In Texas that argument centered on including LGBT people in a group that would qualify.  As obvious as that seems, without the specific inclusion, LGBT Texans would have been left out of hate crimes statistics.  Now the dry field of statistics seems more interesting doesn't it?

This brings me to the story of another group who has long been left out of the statistics that tell the true story of hate and discrimination in this country.  You might not even be aware of them, except for the way they dress.

That man who runs the Indian restaurant down the street isn't wearing a turban for atmosphere, he is Sikh and the turban is a symbol of his faith, much like a yarmulke is to orthodox Jews. It is a turban like that which may have drawn the attention of a white supremacist who entered a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and murdered six innocent worshipers. 

Those victims deaths have been invisible to the statistical analysis that computes hate crimes in the US.  Though the horrific crime made international news, it is invisible to the  legislation that was designed to specifically protect against that kind of crime.  Why?  Because there is no check box for Sikh on the reporting form.  Because of that Sikhs are lumped into "other" or mistakenly into "Muslim" which has no relation to their religion save for a turban.

That statistic is why relatives of the victims testified before Congress this week.  As one man put it,   "Senators, I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic.”  He went on to say that without recognizing the problem it will be hard to solve it.  As a member of a group who was forced into invisibility for so many years, I can identify.

More here on ThinkProgress.

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