The New York Civil Liberties Union has launched an online tool to help New Yorkers report discrimination and acts of bias. The idea is to connect individuals with agencies that can help.
NYCLU says “Equality Watch” is intended to connect individuals who have witnessed or been the target of discrimination to agencies and organizations that can investigate and help. Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn addresses what prompted the NYCLU to provide such a resource.
“Well, we started this project after Donald Trump got elected president and we had this ensuing huge increase in discrimination and bias and hate incidents,” says Dunn.
The Equality Watch database gives tailored contact and reporting information for New York public agencies that are required to address reports of bias acts or discrimination. It also provides contact information for non-profit organizations and other groups that may be able to assist.
“We are concerned that many people don’t really know where to go when they’re the victims of that. And so this web site is designed specifically, you can go to the web site, you can put in very quickly a little bit of information about where it happened and what happened. And it will produce to you the identity of agencies that can help. And when it comes to filing complaints or starting investigations, it will help you file the actual forms necessary to get those things going.”
Questions on Equality Watch ask about the setting in which the incident occurred and which personal characteristic was the target of the discrimination. Respondents answer anonymously, and select from dropdown menus. There is room for added descriptions. Dunn says groups that can help include law enforcement agencies that investigate crimes and local Human Rights Commissions. Westchester County Human Rights Commission Board Chair Reverend Doris Dalton says Equality Watch is very much needed.
“I am really excited about this tool and this resource for New Yorkers. One of the concerns that I have is that, as the chair of the Board of the Westchester County Human Rights Commission, is that we are hearing anecdotal information about bias incidents, hate incidents, hate crimes, but there’s not usually reporting that follows through with it because people are not sure how to report, where to report,” Dalton says. “And the data is really important because it assists us in producing an educational campaign or a targeted public education campaign to address these concerns.”
She says the tool also is important for county agencies to figure out how they can respond thoroughly and collaborate in the response. Westchester has seen a number of bias acts. In July, flyers from white supremist group Identity Evropa were posted in Croton-on-Hudson. In Spring Valley, in Rockland County, the group’s posters featuring Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared in September. Also in September, in Westchester, anti-Semitic graffiti was found in Ardsley. Again, Dalton.
“So I really hope that New Yorkers understand that it’s important for you to share this information,” says Dalton. “We can’t stand by to watch these things happen. We can’t assume that other people will take care of it or that if we ignore it, it will go away. It obviously is not. We need to take some action.”
Equality Watch is also available in Spanish.