By Jon D. Melegrito

Letter from Washington


..."Remembering hate crime victim Joseph Ileto"

...continued from index page

The racially-motivated killing of Ileto on August 10, 1999 was shocking and heart-breaking. The self-professed white supremacist, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, confessed that he killed Ileto because he looked Latino or Asian.

The Filipino American community, led by Filipino Civil Rights Advocates (FilCRA) and NaFFAA, held demonstrations to denounce the slaying. They also assisted the Ileto family, who went on a nationwide speaking tour to push for anti-hate crime and gun control legislation and engage the community in a conversation about race relations. Joseph’s brother, Ismael, and his mother, spoke out strongly against all forms of hate crimes, extending their hands to gays and lesbians, Jews and Muslims, and African Americans and Latinos who also were victimized.

Hate crimes

According to Stewart Kwoh of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), around the time of Joseph’s death, the national media had prominently focused on the brutal hate crimes perpetrated against an African American man in Texas named James Byrd, and a gay man in Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. In the wake of these murders, Kwoh said, the Iletos were aware that hate crimes were happening but it never occurred to them that someone in their own family could become a victim.

“Before, we would watch TV thinking that hate crimes would never happen to us or, good thing, we don’t live in that area,” Deena Ileto, Joseph’s sister-in-law, explained. “And then it happened to us. It was shocking. You come to the realization that there is no type of area and no one is safe when hate is all around us. After Joseph’s death, we realized that we needed to do something. We owed it to Joseph.”

What the Ileto family has done is admirable. “They turned their sorrow and frustration into powerful tools of social activism making it their mission to support all victims of hate crimes, regardless of race, creed, national origin, or sexual orientation,” Kwoh said. “In doing so, they have successfully built a multi-cultural coalition to promote hate crime awareness and hate crime prevention.”

The brutal deaths of Joseph and other hate crime victims have helped raise the nation’s consciousness regarding hate violence.

President Clinton later signed the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to ensure that all people, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, are protected from others who hate them.

It's crucial that we not forget the Aug. 10 shootings that left Joseph Ileto dead. Remembering, although painful, keeps us vigilant against hate crimes. We need to be reminded where racial, ethnic and religious hatred leads, and to take strong action against crimes that threaten to tear apart the very fabric of our society.

At a time when overt racial discrimination is condoned by no less than the current occupant of the White House, the hate killing of Joseph Ileto and the violent actions of today’s white supremacists are bitter reminders that bigotry is still alive.








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