Friday, February 23, 2007

Toward Community: statement on Cha Vang

I'm chairing the Toward Community: Unity in Diversity Board of Directors. I'm an individual member, but the library is also a member, as we're also a member of the Multicultural Center. Why is this a library thing?
  • the library is part of the community
  • the library is committed to serving the entire community on an equal basis
  • support for cultural diversity is implicit in the public library ideals of intellectual freedom and fair treatment of all points of view
Looking at the recent and nearby tragic murder of a Hmong hunter in that context ,and with a good deal of input, I drafted the following statement. This was approved by the Toward Community board and sent to the Attorney General, prosecuting District Attorney, media and community groups. The statement itself has nothing particular to do with the library, but I'm not embarrassed to have people think that the library director speaks up for inclusiveness.
Statement on the death of Cha Vang

The Toward Community: Unity in Diversity Board of Directors notes that we are all saddened by any untimely death, and more so by a violent death such as the murder of Cha Vang. As an organization devoted to inclusiveness and diversity in our community, Toward Community has two concerns.

First, there seems to have been a rush to judgment on the part of prosecuting attorneys that Wisconsin’s Hate Crime statutes were not applicable. Given the history of the accused, as well as remarks the accused made to law enforcement, and the vicious violence apparent in the condition of Cha Vang’s body, we are unconvinced that there is no Hate Crime here. We encourage prosecutors to keep this option open through their investigations.

Second, we are concerned about the possibility of blaming the victim, and further blaming the victim’s ethnicity and background. The suggestion that this problem would not have occurred had Cha Vang been proficient in English is unproven. Until all the facts are known, if they ever can be, this is unsupported and could justify further discrimination. Some have suggested that Hmong people not hunt for a year or two, and this is manifestly unfair.

We can insist on better safety training for all hunters. But you can’t legislate courtesy or respect. That takes all of us, and is not furthered by discriminating against all Hmong people by applying additional restrictions.

On behalf of the Toward Community Board of Directors
Terry Dawson, President

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