Teaching before it’s too late
By Julia Dreifus
Recently, Detective Dave L. D’Amico came to our school to give a presentation about hate crimes. What we got was a horror show.
Detective D’Amico works in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, where he brings bullies to justice. He shared with us that the best way to prevent hate and bias crimes is to educate about where they come from, why they happen, and how to prevent them.
When Mr. D’Amico first spoke to us, he disclosed that he was a detective and former police officer, and that he was examining us as we walked in. Upon his observations, he told us he was convinced, based on our body language, speech, and tone, that there is no hate in our school. As we soon found out, this was not the case in many other communities.
Mr. D’Amico spoke of many people’s hate-crime experiences, showed us appalling videos and statistics, and challenged us to step into the victim’s shoes. What would it feel like to be harassed everyday? To be discriminated against? To not feel safe at school? He presented examples of extinct hate groups and examples of those that survived till today, including Nazism, genocides, September 11th, and the KKK. According to statistics, New Jersey surprisingly has the most hate groups in the entire country, and is number 2 in the country for the number of hate crimes, second only to California.
He warned us that all hate crimes start with ignorance. Although we do not have hate in our school, he noted that a foundation for hate can be found everywhere. We must stay vigilant. One of the solutions he suggested was to be an active bystander: to recognize a developing hate crime, to respond to the situation, and to act when necessary.
At the end of the presentation, he gave a call to duty, for us to be leaders, role models, and heroes. As Mr. D’Amico wisely said, we should always aim to “Be that person that the person that sits next to you can look up to.”