Crime and Prejudice

Purple and PA Sen Bob Casey on anti-hate legislation fighting racism and xenophobia.

September 1, 2023. We are all traumatized by the news of 12 year old Hekiziah Bernard’s heinous murder. Another young BLACK CHILD DEAD in the streets of Philadelphia. It’s getting even harder for most of us to talk about these killings without talking about someone you know or are trying to help.

I asked US Senator Bob Casey about what more can be done:

I know that you have been in the fight against gun violence in Pennsylvania. Just recently another baby boy was found murdered, shot in the head wrapped in plastic. How do you feel about it? What more can our government do about it?

SEN. CASEY: Well, certainly at the federal level, we should pass a series of measures that would create an environment where we can reduce the likelihood of violence like that. A background check bill — which is supported by 90% of the American people – and other common-sense measures would help to reduce gun violence, but unfortunately, in the United States Senate, you have a wall of opposition from Republican senators and we got to break through that. And the only way to do that is to keep winning elections.

Speaking on the federal level, what about a Black hate crime bill? We had a man come shoot five people dead in SW Philly this summer, just because they were Black. The gunman admitted it. That’s a hate crime. Now we passed an Asian hate crime bill two years ago. So I’m asking is there any Black hate crime legislation in the works? Is that a thing, a Black hate crime bill?

SEN CASEY: Certainly I would love to take a look at that.

What do you think? Are we ready to work on a BLACK HATE CRIME BILL?! Is it time?


Congress’s “Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act” – passed in 2021 — was a direct result of the surge in attacks on Asian Americans during the pandemic, when xenophobic conspiracy theories created a climate of fear and suspicion. The law designates resources like staff, grants, and support for local law enforcement agencies to better report and address Asian hate crimes.

But does it prevent them? Not so much, say many experts including Stop AAPI Hate, a national organization that documents incidents and advocates for local solutions. They argue that investment in policing alone won’t have much impact without addressing root causes and systemic racism in our communities. Indeed, more than 85 Asian American and Pacific Islander activist groups opposed this bill as lip service from politicians who want to look like they’re doing something without actually fostering change.

So what works? One of the most effective deterrents to hate crimes is simply spending time with each other. Study after study shows that when people of different backgrounds come together on a common cause or task – even something as inconsequential as a block party or holiday lights – we learn to like each other (or at least understand each other).

Personal connections override fear and misinformation every time, but still: on a national level, anti-hate legislation raises awareness and guarantees crucial protections for targeted groups. And it can be hugely validating. As in 2022, when after more than 200 failed attempts over twelve decades, the US finally designated lynching as a federal hate crime. Under the new Emmitt Till Antilynching Act, perpetrators can receive harsher sentencing for hate-based violence and conspiracy.

Racially-motivated murders have nevertheless continued to soar, prompting a coalition of US Congress members – including Senator Bob Casey – to re-introduce anti-hate legislation this September.

H.R. 5435, the Disarm Hate Act, aims to stop people convicted of hate crimes from ever owning firearms. “People who have been convicted of hate crimes should not have access to firearms. It’s that simple,” Senator Casey said. “I’m introducing the Disarm Hate Act because it’s commonsense to keep guns out of the hands of people seeking to commit acts of hateful violence.”

The Disarm Hate Act is endorsed by the National Violence Domestic Hotline, Amnesty International USA, Everytown, Brady, March for Our Lives, Human Rights Campaign, and Sandy Hook Promise (among others). There’s also an online petition by social justice attorney Ben Crump for an Anti-Black Hate Crime Bill, with more than 6400 signatures so far.

Stand up for anti-hate legislation and common-sense solutions to senseless neighborhood violence! Reach me @sajdapurpleblackwell as I advocate for peace, love and life in Philadelphia.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

About Sajda "Purple" Blackwell 7 Articles
Sajda “Purple” Blackwell is a local personality, community activist, and owner/founder of PQRADIO1.COM, one of the most popular internet radio stations in the Delaware Valley (and a WHYY/N.I.C.E. partner). Her unique interview style has endeared her to many prominent Philadelphians, including the Mayor, who regularly makes time to chat.

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