A panel of community leaders gathered at the Longmont Museum on Thursday evening to discuss the impact of hate crimes on Boulder County’s diverse communities.
“We want to not just talk about the issue, but look at the action … that we can create,” said panel moderator Carmen Ramirez, community and neighborhood resources manager for Longmont.
The talk was part of the Voices of Change series through the Longmont Museum’s “Thursday Nights at the Museum” program. Thursday’s discussion, titled “Hate Crime in America,” was the fifth installment in a series inviting community members to engage in conversation about equity and inclusion.
The panel was composed of Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty, Boulder Jewish Community Center (JCC) Executive Director Jonathan Lev, NAACP Boulder County Branch President Annett James and Out Boulder County Executive Director Mardi Moore.
Several panelists emphasized the hidden nature of hate crimes in Boulder County because of underreporting. Dougherty said the list of crimes reported to Out Boulder County is always “far longer” than what is reported to the DA’s office.
“It’s the lack of trust in law enforcement that concerns me the most,” he said.
Hate crimes have been increasing in Colorado since 2016, Dougherty said. He wants to see the culture around these crimes change from one of response to one of prevention.
“There’s no one community that’s immune from these issues,” he said. “We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.”
Lev said JCCs across the country regularly receive hate mail and bomb threats. He shared his disappointment that Colorado ranked eighth in the country for the number of antisemitic incidents, according to a recent survey.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better,” he said. “There are times where it feels hopeless.”
Systemic racism, James said, is a “direct descendant” of hate. She said not a week goes by without a racially-based microaggression getting reported to the Boulder County NAACP Branch.
James said these microaggressions tell Black Boulder County residents that they “don’t really belong.”
“We have to really examine what it means to be an operable, welcoming community,” she said. “We are so far from that.”
A common thread between the panelists was their belief that community members must actively work toward equity to achieve lasting change. James said she doesn’t want allies: she wants “invested partners.”
“All of us have a role to play,” she said. “It is your responsibility to be unafraid and unapologetic.”
Moore said as hard as it is to hear from victims of hate crimes, she feels honored to work on repairing a “broken system.”
“I love living in Longmont because it’s wholly diverse,” she said. “There’s so much we can do to make things better, and people are already doing that.”