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Friday, September 6, 2013

Essay on Hate Crimes

Essay on Hate Crimes

            The society is composed of diverse people who interact with each other every day.  People belongs to different  culture, religious affiliation, political affiliation, race, ethnic groups and other group memberships. People are also differentiated though age, sex, gender, socio- economic backgrounds, languages, opinions, etc.  As we roam around the street, observe different commuters in a bus or a train and walk around the neighborhood, we would definitely notice that people are very different in many ways. Diversity in the society is integral since it integrates different ideas and beliefs which can inspire people to learn from different viewpoints and develop accepting attitudes toward differentiation. Despite these advantages, the growing diversity in our population also increases the violence and the crime committed because of the prejudices and discrimination toward members of a particular social group. Crimes committed because of discrimination and prejudices through minorities or a particular social group are called Hate Crimes. 

            Hate crimes have various definitions in literature. Just as much as the concept of crime in general, it is very difficult to construct an exhaustive definition of hate crime. According to the American Psychological Association, hate crime is any felony or crime that manifests based on “race, color, religion, or national origin. Hate crimes can be understood as a crime fueled by the negative attitudes and opinions toward a particular group of persons. It can involve a specific aspect of a victim’s identity like his ethnicity, race, religion and gender. Hate crimes are more than just biases or prejudices because they involve dangerous actions such as physical assault, shooting, cross burnings etc. Wolfe and Copeland (1994) on the other hand defined the phenomenon of hate crime as violence directed towards group people who are seen by the majority society as not valuable, who suffer discrimination in other areas and who do not have full access to political, economic and social justice. Based on this definition given by Wolfe and Copeland, Perry (2001) suggested that hate crimes include violence and intimidation which are directed towards stigmatized and marginalized groups. It is a mechanism of power and oppression that reaffirms the existing hierarchies in a particular social order. 

            Hate crimes have two important elements that are widely accepted: first, it includes actions that are already defined as illegal in the state or federal statutes. Second, it requires that a religious, ethnic racial or some other identified difference between the victim and the perpetrator play a big part in the criminal act (Levin & McDevitt, 2008).  Hate crimes are often caused by confusion, ignorance and fear of the differences. The feeling of superiority of the majority over the minorities are also a reason behind the perpetration of hate crimes. Perpetrators of hate crimes who are members of organized hate groups believe that society should be pure and the majorities should rule that is why they should get rid of the minorities. 

            Hate crimes are reported to be most motivated by the racial bias. Minorities like the American- African, Hispanics, Asians are often the targets of hate crime. Hate crimes also target religious minorities like the Arab and the Muslim Americans. Homosexuals and Transgenders are also being victimized by various hate crime groups. Violent hate crime victimization often causes great risks of psychological distress stress, depression, anger) than the victims of other violent crimes. Victims of hate crimes are also at risk of developing mental health problems that involve anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

            In order to stop hate crimes, lawmakers, law enforcement officials, leaders, researchers, educators and policy makers should work together. Federal discrimination laws, regulation and statutes that are full legal protection from biased motivated and discrimination crimes like the The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 1913, 111th Congress) and The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909, 111th Congress) should be supported. Researches that asses the incidence, prevalences, predictors and outcomes of hate crimes and also the effects of hate crimes on the victims should be encouraged and supported.

Levin, J., & McDevitt, J. (2002). Hate crimes revisited: America’s war against those who are
different. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Perry, B. (2001) In the name of hate: Understanding hate crimes. New York: Routledge

Wolfe, L. & Copeland, L. (1994) Violence against women as bias-motivated hate crime:
defining the issues in the USA’, in M. Davies (ed.). Women and Violence. London: Zed

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