Victim’s daughter responds to anti-Arab attack in Oregon: ‘I don’t want this to be considered a hate crime’

US Politics
on 26 Comments

Last week a man in Salem, Oregon was charged with assault, intimidation and unlawful use of a weapon after he yelled at an employee working in a Middle Eastern restaurant, “go back to your country, terrorist” and then attacked him with a plastic pipe.

The alleged assailant, Jason Kendall, 52, later told police that he struck the worker in order to free a woman in the restaurant that he believed was abducted, because, kidnapping people, “that is what Arabs do,” he said, according to a probable cause statement reported by the Statesman Journal.

He added, her shirt was a “signal” to him that she was being kept a slave. He was on a “warrior’s path” to free her. When he saw the “Saddam Hussein looking guy” in the restaurant, he stood up and said to the woman she was “free to leave.”

But she did not leave and Kendall exited the restaurant, grabbed an “evil totem” with Arabic script on it (the plastic pipe), and hit the man in his head, so the Statesman and other newspapers reported.

What was not reported, is that restaurant is my family’s restaurant, the man who was attacked is my father, and the woman Kendall was supposedly trying to “free,” she is my mother.

I believe it important to be as transparent as possible and speak out about this incident. Therefore, I have given myself some time to put my fears and frustrations about the attack and every aspect about it into consideration. In all honesty, it is much easier to speak out and condemn such an attack, when it’s not so personal. There is nothing more personal than an attack on the people you love most; it is more personal than an attack on yourself. However, as serious as this attack was, it wasn’t as dramatic as the media portrayed it.

Jason Kendall first came into our restaurant to rummage in a corner where old magazines were placed. He did not first come in yelling like the reports stated. He has come into our restaurant before, just like many of the homeless in the area have, and my family has fed him before like they have for others in similar financial and housing situations similar to Jason Kendall.

In fact, my parents are known for feeding and aiding many of those in need in the area, and many of their patrons leave extra money to aid in this feeding after they’ve witnessing this. The unbelievable support and love we have received from the community after this incident testifies to that.   

However, this time while my father was alone and already upset about a personal matter, he became frustrated with Kendall for making a mess with the magazines, and yelled at him to leave. Kendall left, but later returned while my mother was there. He came in dressed as a warrior, with a cloth wrapped around his waist, a heavy plastic brochure holder (like the ones often put next to cash registers), and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. He did start yelling, “Come here you Arab” and “I want to beat him up” among other derogatory and threatening statements while jumping around as if he were a ninja.

My parents were not scared. They were frustrated with him, and my mother and father were attempting to calm him and telling him to just leave, since they were feeling he was acting delusional. My father did not want to hurt him even in self-defense. All the while he was telling my mother, “you step to the side, I don’t want you, I want him” and told her she could leave. He then threw the plastic object at my father, and my father blocked it with his arm. Still, it hit a corner of the front of his head. Again, the pipe was not pounded against my father’s skull like the news reported it.

It’s difficult to admit that this white male did, in fact, commit this attack out of mental illness, because it has become way too convenient in this country to say that when a white male attacks a person of color it is because he suffers from some mental health issues.

Understanding this entire situation and the actions that were acted out throughout the attack has made it more than apparent Jason Kendall does indeed suffer from a mental illness. His statements, actions and the way he demonstrated them were of delusion. I am in no way condoning his racism by saying it is part of the illness, nor is his illness an excuse for his bigotry, because most people who suffer from mental illness don’t act out like this.

That is why I can wholeheartedly say I don’t want this to be considered a hate crime, I want this to be called what it is: a man with some serious mental health issues.

I’m more saddened by the fact that this man may potentially face time in prison than the attack he carried out itself. Yes, I am worried about the man who attacked my mother and father in our place of business. My reasons for this are much larger than a problem within our community; it’s a problem within our country and our prison industrial system. Our prison systems are what I’m worried about for this man, for my family, and for this society. It’s a blatant fact less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the U.S., yet we have around 22 percent of the world’s total prison population, as reported by the Washington Post, adding, “A heart-breaking truth is that part of this increase is due to a widespread failure to treat mental illness.” 

In 1955 mental hospitals had 558,922 patients, according to a report in the Washington Post that noted the number dropped to 35,000 in 2015. The Post explained part of the reduction in patients was likely because of an increase in incarcerated persons with mental illness.

“For various reasons, these community treatment plans proved inadequate, leaving many of the mentally ill homeless or in jail. According to the Department of Justice, about 15 percent of state prisoners and 24 percent of jail inmates report symptoms meet the criteria for a psychotic disorder,” the Post reported.

“Unsurprisingly, many prisons are poorly equipped to properly deal with mental illness. Inmates with mental illnesses are more likely than other to be held in solitary confinement, and many are raped, commit suicide, or hurt themselves,” the Post continued.

The Huffington Post also covered this in a report earlier this year that found a quarter of incarcerated Americans have mental illnesses.

“We also know that mental illness didn’t suddenly disappear just because long-term psychiatric care went the way of the dinosaur. No, the mentally ill still exist, and in fact often end up institutionalized. But that institution is no longer a hospital, it’s a prison,” reported the Huffington Post.

This entire situation and the attention it is receiving through the media and even from U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley who stated on social media, “#MuslimBan has unleashed a scary wave of hate crimes. Infuriated by this example in Salem. We must stand vs. hatred,” is what has led me to use my platform.

This should be addressed on a larger scale and used to address the root cause of this so-called crime. Throwing people with mental illness in the spotlight as the perpetrators of crime and as the poster children for hate crimes, while ignoring the many other incidents where white supremacist are still able to terrorize people of color with no accountability or punishment, isn’t how we make a stance against hatred. I want total accountability from our officials to be taken and the policies they put in place to actually help people like Jason Kendall to not have to suffer in our prison systems, and not to come out worse than they went in, and harm families like mine. I want police brutality against Black people, against all people of color, and people with mental illness to be taken into accountability and recognized.

I will not allow you to tokenize me and my family and the man who made them victims all while ignoring the families and people whose dire fates fall on the policies you enforce. You cannot pick and choose who deserves punishment, and who deserves to be a victim.

About Layla Abdel-Jawad

Layla Abdel-Jawad is a Palestinian-American Muslim, from Ramallah and born in the United States. She has lived most of her adolescence in Palestine and is based in Oregon. She is a Palestinian activist perusing a BS in Community Health.

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26 Responses

  1. AddictionMyth
    March 17, 2017, 3:55 pm

    It’s a fine line between mental illness and terrorism. In fact I’d argue they’re the same, regardless of the perp’s skin tone. I believe that unfortunately ‘treatment’ only creates more ‘mental illness’. The solution is in part to lower the min wage in OR – so that people like him can work and stay out of trouble. (Like an addiction – sometimes the best way to help someone is to stop trying to ‘help’ them.)

    • Mooser
      March 17, 2017, 10:25 pm

      “The solution is in part to lower the min wage in OR…”

      Who let you near a keyboard?

      • rsthall
        March 18, 2017, 4:40 pm

        I completely agree, Mooser. What does AddictionMyth NOT understand about mental illness and how this man most likely couldn’t possibly hold a job? Boggles the mind.

  2. Bumblebye
    March 17, 2017, 9:43 pm

    Dr Izzeldine Abueleish is suing Israel over the liss of his daughters and neice:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/palestinian-doctor-izzeldin-abuelaish-sues-israel-kill-three-daughters-idf-tank-shell-gaza-strip-a7632601.html?utm_content=buffer3039c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    I disagree with Addiction Myth. Hatred is part of the human condition. While deeply unhealthy, by itself it isn’t a mental illness, which the perpetrator of the attack demonstrated. I hardly think lowering the min wage would help someone whose unpredictable and unmedicated behavior would make him a dangerous liability to employ. – and who would be running his finances and supplementing them to keep a roof over his head and food on his table?

    • oldgeezer
      March 18, 2017, 12:06 am

      @Bumblebye

      I don’t agree that hatred is necessarily a part of the human condition. It is too negative and consuming. I do think you can be driven to hatred. My negative emotions on this would be better classed as disgust at mans inhumanity to man. My language may be over the top at times but mostly to mirror zionist language to Palestinians and Arabs. If those are words that espouse hate they should reflect on their language.

      Anger can be confused with hatred. The two are not the same. Anger is transient. Hatred, like love, is essentially enduring.

      • Bumblebye
        March 18, 2017, 12:45 pm

        But it is. Or it would not be so damn easy for people (in general) to be so easily manipulated *to* hate others, even if we use lesser words for it. We can reject it, a) because that’s the right thing, and b) because, as you state, it’s too negative and consuming – and self-harming. As it is, at the moment it seems to be ascendant in much of the world, not just a few small corners. And not enough people are aware enough to combat the manipulation directly.

  3. iResistDe4iAm
    March 17, 2017, 10:00 pm

    Thanks Layla for setting the record straight. It takes a lot of courage to speak truth to power, including to the media, who seem more interested in spreading sensationalism, fear and paranoia than in reporting the facts.

    Unfortunately, the US government actively targets similar groups of vulnerable people (including those with intellectual and mental disabilities) for entrapment into fake terrorist plots:
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/21/us-terrorism-prosecutions-often-illusion

    Fortunately, more people are waking up to the ever-present phenomenon of fake news.

  4. oldgeezer
    March 18, 2017, 12:10 am

    I can’t add to your wisdom or grace Layla. A simple thank you for speaking what I feel is the truth. And for your ability to deal with this situation in a truly beautiful (stuck for the best or proper word) way.

  5. Annie Robbins
    March 18, 2017, 3:20 am

    the privatization of incarceration has made it increasingly profitable for some entities to imprison the mentally ill. that’s at the root of it. same with the privatization of schools, it’s not what’s best for the kids that matters, it’s what’s best for the entities who profit off sucking the tit of public funds, the federal budgets. they rally against the feds so they can reap the profit paid for by the tax payer instead. plus, it’s cheaper for these private entities to hire prison guards than it is to hire health professionals.

    corporate interest, all about that.

  6. eljay
    March 18, 2017, 8:46 am

    Much respect to Ms. Abdel-Jawad for looking beyond the incident in her family’s restaurant and demanding:
    – greater assistance for those who need it; and
    – greater accountability from those who refuse or fail to provide it.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      March 18, 2017, 6:05 pm

      Yes, I am very moved that this family is taking such a humane and generous attitude to this man in spite of the danger that he may have posed. An example for us all.

  7. Jon66
    March 18, 2017, 8:56 am

    Mental illness is particularly tough to treat. In most other diseases, the ill person wishes to get “better”. Often times the mentally ill are happy with the way their brain processes the world. Additionally, many of the medications that restore a more “normal” thought pattern feel like they “dull” or “fog” the person being treated.

    There is undoubtedly a deficit of funding for mental illness in this country for people who wish to be treated, but sadly many of the ill do not wish any treatment at all. If you take the time to speak with psych patients who refuse meds, they often can coherently explain their reasons. its hard to treat people who don’t want to get “better”.

    • eljay
      March 18, 2017, 1:55 pm

      || Jon66: … its hard to treat people who don’t want to get “better”. ||

      This describes Zionists quite nicely. :-)

      IMO there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to get “better” if the mental illness or Zionism doesn’t cause its host to act out in unjust or immoral ways. Many (most?) mentally-ill people do not act out that way, but 100% of Zionists do.

    • Marnie
      March 18, 2017, 2:12 pm

      This sounds like a veiled attempt to siphon more money to the zionist state.

      Like you yourself wrote ‘its hard to treat people who don’t want to get “better”‘.

      • Jon66
        March 18, 2017, 7:16 pm

        Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

      • Mooser
        March 19, 2017, 3:42 pm

        “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

        It’s just not ready to smoke until it’s been cut.

    • Mooser
      March 18, 2017, 2:40 pm

      “Mental illness is…”

      Gee, and I thought “Jon 66” was only a surgeon. Guess he does minds, too.

      • echinococcus
        March 19, 2017, 1:55 am

        Having read his output, I can say that the only way he would do minds –or any other nonsurgical illness is the Zionist way: entirely surgical!

      • Mooser
        March 19, 2017, 3:37 pm

        “Jon 66” knows the chances of a good surgical outcome is always increased by operating on a healthy person, or cigar.

      • echinococcus
        March 19, 2017, 10:34 pm

        Not to mention the little detail of the bitterly-fought-for circumcision honoraria, duly medicalized and made routine for most Goys in our post-war hospitals. I don’t know how much they are billed today but every little bit and sliver helps.

  8. edwards
    March 18, 2017, 1:19 pm

    I am so sad to hear this. Only last week I had dinner at the restaurant, and witnessed a man (one of the owners ?) quietly praying on a mat placed along one wall of the dining room. And now my fellow Americans invade this space and start beating. I hate this fucking country. When the mentally ill are provided with extra reason to hate, what would you expect?

  9. ayoungethan
    March 18, 2017, 4:11 pm

    I am a personal friend of Jason’s and I wanted to write and say thank you to Layla for helping to correct the inaccurate media narrative that’s out there. We live in a white supremacist society and one with a rampant mental health epidemic as well.

    I have posted my experience with Jason in the run-up to this incident here:
    https://www.facebook.com/ayoungethan/posts/1866513353596381?comment_id=1867832026797847&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R1%22%7D

    this incident probably was entirely predictable and preventable, if we are able to respond effectively as a community. I would love to get in touch with Layla about two things:
    1. How can we support them through this process, specifically as friends of Jason?
    2. How can we coordinate or collaborate to overcome the harmful media narratives and move a more constructive community dialogue forward about these intersecting issues of mental illness, race and racism, etc?

    Thank you to Layla and to MondoWeiss for getting these perspectives out there!

  10. ayoungethan
    March 18, 2017, 4:40 pm

    To clarify, I would love it if someone could pass my contact information on to Layla. We will also try to stop by the restaurant sometime next week, too, to touch bases.

  11. Boo
    March 18, 2017, 8:38 pm

    It’s really quite remarkable that MondoWeiss has had the opportunity to set the record straight in such a dramatic and meaningful way. Best wishes to all the parties involved. It’s a blessing that Ms. Abdel-Jawad’s dad and mom escaped serious injury. I hope Mr. Kendall is given the opportunity to receive the help he needs and is not thrown into the prison-industrial meat grinder. Congratulations to MondoWeiss on what really amounts to a “scoop”.

  12. dianab
    March 18, 2017, 10:13 pm

    I deplore this incident and I hope that Mr. Abdel-Jawad is recovering — physically and emotionally — from this grievous assault. There is no question that Jason Kendall, the assailant, is mentally ill. There is also no question that this was a hate crime; to wit, Kendall was attacking a “Saddam Hussein looking guy” and trying to “save” the female “victim” of the Saddam-Hussein-looking guy. If the restaurant owners had been tall, blond, blue-eyed and light-skinned, bets are pretty good that Kendall would not have acted as he did. There’s no reason why the complaint against Kendall cannot include hate crime and also mental illness.

  13. Ara
    March 25, 2017, 12:15 am

    Thank you for your thoughtful, compassionate and wise post. Wishing you and your family the very best.

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