On Thursday, police were investigating claims of an alleged hate crime in lower Manhattan. It was made by a 20 year-old Middle Eastern beauty-student, who reported her face was slashed by a man as she was leaving the Make-up Designory Beauty School for the day. According to the student, the man, who was dressed in a black hat, ski mask, and a black jacket, grabbed her, called her a “fucking terrorist!,” before pulling at her arm and cutting her face.
Police stated that while she was treated on the scene, she still had “a noticeable-sized cut to the left side of her cheek.” While her assailant was nowhere to be found, police remained optimistic, even telling the media that “We got a victim who is able to tell us what happened.”
However, as police continued to search the nearby area for “a man around 5’9”, 180-200 pounds, and dressed in all black except for blue jeans,” the woman finally confessed: She had made the whole thing up, and slashed her own cheek.
While lying to the police about being the victim of a hate crime is a definite no-no, the real concern may be that so many of us were not surprised to hear about it in the media. That, in itself, is indicative of something more.
Rather than condemning this as the turning point, and making it an issue of scrutinizing victims until we stop believing them, it’s imperative that we look into why we believed the fabrications in the first place. More importantly, what are their underlying causes?
Following her confession, she was taken to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. This story as a whole should serve as a reminder that, regardless of this particular woman’s mental condition, there are people in our own community who do suffer from a variety of mental health issues. We need to address this.
Let’s just say it outright: The stigma about mental health is just as harmful to members of our community as is hateful political rhetoric. Making sure our brothers and sisters with mental health conditions (from depression to schizophrenia to multi-personality disorder and everything in between) are getting the treatment they need, rather than trying to pretend everything is “normal” is crucial to one’s physical and emotional well-being.
To be clear, mental health isn’t the only issue highlighted by the incident here. Yes, this “attack” may not have been a real attack, but as we recently discovered, there have been at least 232 hate crimes reported in the past 238 days. New York-based organizer Faiza N. Ali tweeted earlier on Thursday:
“These attacks do not occur in a vacuum…This is what happens when people on national television & rallies across America spew bigotry, incite violence.”
The longer our society allows this kind of hateful rhetoric to be perpetuated, the more of these actual attacks we will see.
Think about it – we’ve almost become so numb to the wave of hate, that upon hearing about another slashing attack, most of us were not surprised.
It’s gotten so bad that Linda Sarsour warned Muslim women all across America via Twitter to, “beware of your surroundings. Do not walk and text or converse on your phones. Stay alert.”
Meanwhile, we will continue to follow this story for updates, because whether the allegations made by the victim were fabricated or not, the reality is there is a rise in hate crimes. And, ultimately, as Sarsour clarified in a Facebook post:
“We must remain alert and protect ourselves, but the minute we let our fears control us, the bigots win.”
So, sisters, as hopeless as stories like this might make us feel, let’s take care of each other, talk to each other, keep our heads up, keep our eyes open, and keep moving onward and upward.