Rarely do we come across a case that so clearly embodies racial hatred, elements of torture and police misconduct. On May 22, 2010 in an Indiana jail, Tevin Bald says he was a victim of exactly such an incident and the evidence backs him up.
Reports from the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department indicate that on May 22, 2010, Cpl. Nathan Adams, used “extreme measures” on 18-year-old African American Tevin Bald. Bald was abused for over an hour after arguing with Cpl. Adams about cleaning duties. When Bald kicked over a water bucket out of anger, he was placed in restraints, stripped naked, placed in a restraint chair, verbally abused — including the repeated us of the “n-word” being broadcast into his cell over the jail intercom – and had a mace-tainted hood placed on his head. Bald was then placed naked in a padded cell and not allowed to shower for three days. When a doctor was finally allowed to examine Bald, physical injuries were discovered that substantiated his claim of maltreatment.
Cpl. Adams was initially fired by Sheriff Michael Deatrick, but hired back three days later. Sheriff Deatrick said that Adams was “stupid” and had made “a mistake.” But stupidity is no excuse for racism.
The NAACP has begun a campaign to educate the community and the nation about this incident as well as the recent uptick in hate crimes in America. What happened to Tevin Bald was not only an egregious violation of his human and civil rights, but the repeated use of the “n-word” by a law enforcement official clearly builds on the tragic legacy of racial hatred from America’s past.
While the statutory definition of a hate crime varies from state to state, the FBI defines it as: “a criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against the victim’s race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin, or sexual-orientation.” Hate crimes not only impact the individual(s) at which they are directed, they undermine entire communities and make us all feel less secure. When Cpl. Adams tortured Bald and used racial slurs, he confirmed race as a motivating factor and communicated hate towards all African-Americans. Similarly, when a church, mosque or a synagogue is vandalized with racist anti-religious symbols or a noose, entire communities get the same message: you are not wanted, you are not equal and this is not your country.
Make no mistake; a hate crime is merely a modern iteration of our nation’s horrid past that sought to deny equal rights and protections to entire populations of people. For this reason, a hate crime is not just a crime; it is an act of aggression and threat against our Constitution and its promise to all Americans.
Although existing statistics show an upward trend in hate crimes, the highest since 2001, they fall short of an accurate account of what is really going on. Even the FBI data is based on a limited number of police departments who voluntarily report statistics on hate crimes to the FBI. For this reason, the NAACP has decided to collect reports of hate crimes through its online reporting system: All Alert.
By the end of July 2010, witnesses and victims of hate crimes will be able to report it to the NAACP All Alert System by going online to the NAACP website, by submitting a short text, by tweeting, or through a toll-free voice-activated phone number. The information gathered via All Alert will be used for research and advocacy purposes, to understand the problem on a national scale, to analyze trends, and to advocate for change and greater accountability.
Gathering data is only the first step. We must also work to hold those responsible for hate crimes to account. Getting justice for Tevin Bald and holding Cpt. Adams responsible for his actions is a great start, one that must be repeated every time a hate crimes incident, or torture is discovered. But only until we take proactive measures to stop hate can we begin to realize the “one nation, one dream” vision for which our ancestors fought so hard. Throughout its history, America has replaced hate with hope on many occasions, and we must work together to do it again.