This morning, Miami Herald columnist Steve Rothaus criticized New Times' cover story "Escape from South Beach." The blogger, who focuses on gay issues, cites one statistic, writing: "It's a bit over the top."
The article -- if you haven't seen it -- takes a look at three things. 1) The fact that South Beach has morphed from a gay playground into a hub for hip-hop events. 2) The resulting culture clash, including several instances of gay hate crime. 3) The gay community's migration to Fort Lauderdale.
Rothaus plucked this sentence from the story: "According to state records, 75 percent of countywide gay hate crime in the past year occurred in Miami Beach, a place the rest of the world sees as a big, happy gay rainbow."
His contention: Only four gay hate crimes were documented last year, which makes the statistic flimsy. It's a good point -- if you don't understand the big picture.
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If Rothaus had read to the third section, he might understand the issue more thoroughly. Gay hate crimes-- which are classified by the State Attorney's Office -- represent a tiny fraction of how many actually occur. Only one-eighth of gay victims come forward about such violence, according to several exoperts we spoke with. What's more, the language of the state hate crime law is vague, and police officers are rarely adequately trained to document the signs.The statistic we used represents a microcosm of what really goes on.
The article's assertion is not that hate crimes alone caused gays to flee north. That would be almost impossible to prove.
( Activists do, however, explain the Broward cops are the best-trained nationally, when it comes to documenting hate.)
Here's the point we make: The beach has changed, and many gays no longer feel welcome. Gay hate crime is an extreme -- and under-reported -- example of that tension. Rothaus, who is gay, should know that firsthand.