How to respond to hate (this applies to you, too, Seattle) | KUOW News and Information

How to respond to hate (this applies to you, too, Seattle)

Nov 29, 2016

The 911 call came in two days after the presidential election from the security guard at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle.  He was reporting a possible hate crime.  

The target was a 16-year-old student who was on her way to school when a man she did not know allegedly grabbed her by the arm and refused to let her go. 


The guard reported that the man told the young woman, “Your color of people don't belong here. You're not attractive and you need to leave. You're toxic people and you're ruining this country."

The security guard described the student as being of Middle Eastern descent.  

After the presidential election result was official, reports like this one — of hate speech and hate crimes — started to flow in to groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center.

And it's happening here in deep blue Seattle area, too. Incidents that have been reported and documented include vandalism, racist graffiti, hateful words and physical attacks. 

According to the Seattle Police report, the Nathan Hale High School student was too scared to yell for help and was in tears when she recounted her story to them. 

That same week on the University of Washington Bothell campus several men surrounded a group of Muslim female students. They demanded that the women remove their hijabs.

The following week there was a possible hate crime on the University of Washington Seattle campus. A female Muslim student from Fargo, Nasro Hassan, said she was struck in the head with a bottle and suffered a concussion. 

'No one deserves this,' says UW student Nasro Hassan. She says she was attacked on the University of Washington campus Nov. 15.
Credit KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Jasmin Samy is civil rights manager at the Council on American Islamic Relations, Washington. She spoke at a press conference about the attack and how her community is feeling at this tense moment in history.  

“The morning after the elections, I started to receive text messages and phone calls from community members asking if they should send their children to school — especially female Muslims who wear the veil, because they were very worried about what would happen," Samy said.

What should you do if you're a witness — or the target — of a hate crime?

Mina Sultana is co-president of the Muslim Student Association at the UW. She said they now advise all Muslim students to walk with a buddy, on and off the campus, and to be "extra cautious of their surroundings.”

What if you are a witness to a hate incident?  

"I think it's really important for bystanders to step in," she said. "Whether it's getting the victim out of the situation or reporting the incident."

But whether you are the target or the witness, experts say what to do depends on the situation and your own judgment.

If the incident starts with hate speech, that's not a crime. But Sergeant Sean Whitcomb with the Seattle Police Department said, "If the language is directed at you — singularly directed at you — and the person who is uttering it is focused on you, disengage. Disengage from that situation and create some distance."

Whitcomb also suggested reaching out to other people who are on the scene, or heading into a business— especially a business with a rainbow colored Seattle Police Department Safe Place sticker in the window. 

And above all Whitcomb said, “Do what you need to do to be safe."

If you feel threatened, for whatever reason, all of the experts interviewed said call 911 as soon as you can. And make sure to get the police officer's name and a copy of the police report.