What are hate crimes? What makes them distinct from other types of law-breaking? Hate crimes are offenses wherein the suspect is entirely or significantly driven by the mere fact that he and his victim are different. Although the action committed is already declared illegal by law, the punishment to be given to the criminal may be increased due to his motivation. The challenge in identifying whether an offense is a hate crime is that investigators must understand the way the criminal thinks. This is because the difference separating the victim and the criminal is dependent on the criminal’s point of view (Levin & McDevitt 3).
Nevertheless, hate crimes have been recurrent in the past and even at present. A little more than a decade ago, the widely-publicized murder of Matthew Shepard in a Wyoming ranch caught the eyes of many (Brooke 4). The 21-year old student was kidnapped, tied to a fence, beaten with a pistol and was left to die until he was found hours later by a passerby. Today, hate crimes have not yet been abated. In fact, an FBI report found there was an 8% increase in 2006. 5020 were victims of racial hate crime, 1750 were of religion, 1472 were of sexual bias, 1305 were of ethnicity bias and 95 were due to bias against a disability (Duclos 5).
The reduction of hate crimes should be a national priority. First of all because such actions are indications of hate not only towards the individual victimized, but towards the group in which he is classified by the offender. In most cases, the offender does not even know who his victim is. He aims to give a message of hatred to what might be a big group of people, making the situation more complicated. Furthermore, the victim’s characteristic that the offender despises is unchangeable- race, nationality, disability or sex for example.
People can not change these about themselves. Though aspects like religion or gender may be altered, these require a big shift not only in belief but in lifestyle as well. Therefore, a proliferation of hate crimes in a community can cause a sense of vulnerability for people with certain characteristics. Finally, the victim made no action to provoke his offender. Since the feeling of hate is directed towards a big group of people, the offender will most likely be willing to commit the same action even with a different person in that group (Levin & McDevitt 3).
The members of the community, whether it may be in a school, in a town, in a workplace, etc, should send a clear message that the group, in its entirety, are not tolerating the hate crimes in their area. This is because the presence of a force that comes from the group has more weight and is greatly considered by hate crime offenders as compared to a situation where social cohesion does not exist. Thus, it is very clear that there is the need for the community to act as a community not only in terms of civic activities and other common interests but also against violations of the rights of the members.
Yes, reduction of hate crimes may be another one of the things that the government should address by passing legislations or implementing laws. However, we must explore a factor that leads to people having prejudices or hate towards others: upbringing. This undeniably has the greatest influence to how a person might view others, especially since it is during one’s childhood that most fundamental ideas are incorporated. Parents are highly encouraged therefore to rethink the ways they are upbringing their children and to analyze if the values they are incorporating are the right ones.
For though childhood can be the beginning of hate, this can also be the beginning of something better. In the end, we find that the idea that one must hate someone else just because they are different is absurd. One must realize that difference is inevitable, but there is one thing that essentially makes us alike: we are all humans. And that one similarity is more than enough.
- Brooke, James. “Gay Man Dies From Attack, Fanning Outrage and Debate. ” New York Times 13 Oct 1998: sec A p. 1.
- Duclos, Susan. “FBI: Hate Crimes Rise 8 Per Cent in 2006.” 19 November 2007. Digital Journal 19 Apr 2009 <http://www. digitaljournal. com/article/246363/FBI_Hate_Crimes_Rise_8_Per_Cent_in_2006>.
- Hate Crime. Dir. Tommy Stovall. Perf. Seth Peterson, Chad Donella, Bruce Davison, Giancarlo Esposito, Cindy Pickett. Pasidg Productions, 2005. Levin, Jack, and McDevitt, Jack. “Hate Crimes”. The Encyclopedia of Peace, Violence, and Conflict. Northeastern University: Academic Press, 1999.
- Wilmott, Don. “Hate Crime”. 2007. Filmcritic. 19 April 2009 <http://www. filmcritic. com/misc/emporium. nsf/reviews/Hate-Crime