Black Orange County Residents Urged to Share Stories at "Listening Session"

Despite comprising only 2 percent of the county's population, African Americans are the most frequent targets of hate crimes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Christ Our Redeemer AME Church held the first of several planned "listening sessions" called by the Orange County Human Relations Commission to ask African Americans to talk about racism and hate crimes. Antonio Castelan reports from Irvine for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Dec. 8, 2012.

    In the wake of recent crimes against African American families, the Orange County Human Relations Commission held the first of several scheduled "listening sessions" Saturday to hear stories of other black families in the area.

    At the county's largest black church, Christ Our Redeemer AME in Irvine, dozens gathered to discuss experienced that some said go unreported.

    "Orange County is a great place to live, but we have a few dinosaurs that are causing problems in isolated situations," said Rev. Mark Whitlock of the church, which hosted the event alongside several other churches and the commission.

    Dozens of area residents gathers in small groups to converse about their own experiences.

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    Sarah Neal Taylor of Yorba Linda said she experienced discrimination when she went to enroll her daughter in a local school.

    "When I took here there, they wouldn’t even accept her into the school until I brought my papers showing I had bought a home in East Lake Village," Taylor said.

    As for hate crimes, Whitlock said people often don't report them because they believe they're difficult to prove in the court.

    African Americans make up about 2 percent of the population of Orange County, but the commission's recently issued annual hate crime report show they are the most frequently targeted victims of hate crimes. Blacks have been the most targeted group every year since 1991, when the commission started issuing its report.

    The Saturday event comes after an anonymous black family reported that it left Yorba Linda after repeatedly having rocks thrown through windows, tires slashed, and racial slurs yelled at them.

    This week, another black family in Rossmoor said they were the victims of "acid bombs" that they thought were racially motivated. One of the bombs – out of five placed near the home – went off. The bombs was being investigated as a possible hate crime.

    After hearing the former Yorba Linda family's story, the Orange County Human Relations Commission decided to "go into the community" to ask to hear people's experiences, rather than expect residents to come to commission meetings.

    Rusty Kennedy, the commission's executive director, said the stories need to be shared.

    "We want to take those stories and tell them to the community, tell the rest of Orange County that some of our neighbors are facing these kinds of incidents," Kennedy said. "And you should know about it, and we should be ashamed."

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