Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Update On Assault Against Roosevelt Island Sikh Resident - How Do Kids Learn To Hate And How Does The Community Battle Intolerance Asks Long Time RI'er?

 Image Of August 14 Sikh Coalition Press Conference (Dr Batra On Right)

Reported August 14:
... on an assault that took place near the Blackwell Park playground

Image Of Blackwell Plaza From Google Maps

against a Roosevelt Island Sikh resident, Dr. Jaspreet Singh Batra, that is being investigated by the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force. Earlier today, Dr. Batra participated in a press conference, organized by the Sikh Coalition, explaining in greater detail the circumstances surrounding his assault.
A full report on the Press Conference is here.

Channel 7 Eyewitness News reports on the Roosevelt Island incident as well as other similar incidents in NY area.

In response to the assault against Dr. Batra, a long time resident of Roosevelt Island who wishes to be identified as Islandkrewe, sent in this observation to Roosevelt Islander Online. He hopes that:
... it will encourage constructive action and policy that might prevent further racist behavior by young people....
Islandkrewe can occasionally found in the Art Gallery on the Island playing jazz guitar. From Islandkrewe:
How do Kids learn to hate ?

A week ago , Dr Jaspreet Singh Batra and his mother, both residents of Roosevelt Island were subject to a shameful attack near Blackwell House.

His attackers were kids, described as "young people, around 12-15 years old" and fled into a key entry building on Roosevelt Island.

Regardless of how long one has known Roosevelt Island and its community, it is a painful and shameful event. But for those of us who call this Island home. the pain and shame is much much deeper.

How can kids who have grown up and live in a truly multi-racial, heterogeneous community such as ours learn to hate and inflict their hate in this manner ? Can a group of young people foster such thinking among themselves without their parents or elders knowing about it ? Could we have done better as a community ? Have we ignored or dismissed what might have been warning signals , or have we simply been unaware ?

These are troubling questions and there are no easy answers. What we can say, with some certainty, is that we have an issue that we must confront. And confronting the problem will take our entire participation ...  it takes a village.

The young people who led this attack were not born with these hateful and prejudicial thoughts. And living on this Island, they have surely encountered different cultures, both at school and outside the schoolroom. How could they have not seen what is around them on Roosevelt Island ? The diversity of color, creed and language, and the internationalism that is so much a part of this Island, and that gives it its special sauce.

So how do they learn to hate and how do they learn intolerance ? And what gives them the conviction to act on it ? And what should we do as a community to prevent this from happening again ?

Joyce Dubensky, CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, who was at the Media briefing sponsored by the Sikh Coalition, was emphatic about the need to integrate and stress the importance of teaching respect for others’ beliefs, and inclusion, as early as possible in community schools.

The Tanenbaum Center published materials include Religions in My Neighborhood, a curriculum designed for K-4 students. It includes lesson plans about respecting others’ beliefs, teaches inclusion, and is compatible with common core standards.

Do our schools on Roosevelt Island include a program that is focused on Teaching Tolerance ? Do our city schools emphasize this issue in their curriculum ? How does the NYC Board of Ed bring this into the classroom ?

When we recognize hatred and bias in our community, what else must we do ?

Yes, the kids need to held accountable and counselled, and although this might not be something that would all agree with, such action could well be the best form of "punishment" rather than destroying young peoples lives with arrest records.

Sherrie Helstien, an Island resident had some concrete suggestions, which are quoted with her permission:
A “non-interested”/neutral party needs to find out if all the parties: kids and victim(s), and I assume, the kids’ parents, will agree to meet. The intent being, at the very least, a direct and sincere apology from the kids involved in their violent action. If so, then the non-interested party needs to arrange this meeting between/among them all. The kids/parents need to be asked privately and individually, so as to not influence each other. They need to do what is good for themselves, and they need to understand this concept and the seriousness of their decision, either way.

All/each of these kids (girls and boys alike) shall make the choice of either participating in the meeting, or alternately, having charges upheld in whatever form that might take, go on their records, if that is the procedure;

If a meeting is agreed to by all or various of the parties, one would hope the victim will also agree to take an active role in the process. Perhaps more than one meeting will be needed/desired [tbd by the parties involved] to continue to educate/enlighten the kids involved, or maybe it will be decided that this one is enough;

The first thing the kids must each do, individually is apologize to the man and his mother, whether she is available or not (I don’t know if she was visiting or lives with him), understanding the psychological harm and actual physical injury/ies they’ve helped perpetrate.

Then, these kids all must agree to be “enlightened” by their victim and mother, about their prejudice(s), to whit, they need to be educated about the Sikh sect. If the victim cares to go further and feels qualified to do so in a neutral way, he should talk to the kids about various cultural differences between South Asian sects, Arabic, and African ethnic groups (attire, etc.). They need to be made to understand that this “education” is not in any way saying that one group is better or more/less “dangerous” than the/another because we know that is just not true, of course.

I believe that, sometimes, when kids are given an opportunity to apologize directly to their victim, confronting their own shame, and taking responsibility for their own actions, and are even required to supply some form of mutually agreeable and reasonable direct restitution to their victim(s), they will have a chance to learn to see their victim and thus, others, as not apart from/unlike themselves, rather than learning nothing but negatives with negative interaction with “the law”.

If the kids choose to meet and work in good faith with the victim, the one thing that will bind the kids (and their parents) to their words is that they be required to sign a “contract” with the victim/s. If they fulfill the requirements of the “contract” then they should not have this “problem” appear on any record.

And they should know that the community’s “eyes” are now upon them for the future.
Sherrie adds:
There is a program offered specifically for schools to use by the Southern Poverty Law Center called “Teaching Tolerance”, and it’s offered for all age groups. This might be something to address with the PS/IS217 school principal.
Good thoughts and good ideas, which I am sure will stimulate additional constructive paths. Do we agree? Can we make this happen?

But there is more that needs to happen. If we accept that hate is a learned behavior, fed by various sources, including negative media, much more needs to be done. We cannot grapple with all the forces that contribute to creating intolerance, but what can do is to act as a "village" and take responsibility.

Responsibility includes stepping up and willing to 'be counted" when we see intolerance or prejudice in our community. Silence is assent. If you do not object, it is assumed that you accept something. We are not a community that will accept evil. There were witnesses to the attack on Dr. Batra. Speak up and stand up for Tolerance . Commend the young woman who stepped up to intercede. Attend and show your support at community events that rally around important causes such as this. Do the right thing. And never let this happen again.
More information on the incident available here including Dr. Batra's description of what happened.