Hate crimes have been in existence for a very long time and can be traced to the persecution of Christians by Romans. The persecution of Jews by Nazis is also another example of a hate crime which has been committed in the past. In the more recent times, the Rwanda genocide and the Bosnian ethnic cleansing are examples of hate crimes. Hate crimes have played an important role in defining history, since the colonization process during the 16th and 17th century was as a result of the hate crimes. In the United state, the discrimination of black people is seen as a form of hate crime.
Other forms of hate crimes which have occurred in the recent past include assaults on lesbian, gay and trans-gender people. In the United States law, hate crimes are defined as criminal offenses which are committed on basis of religion, color, national origin or race against other people, who are engaging in an activity which is protected by federal laws. Forty five states have statutes which define various types of behavior as hate crimes, and are punishable by law. In addition to this, twenty seven states have statutes which require the states to keep records of hate crimes.
In 2006, the hate crimes increased in US by almost 8%, with 9080 offenses and 7722 incidents being reported to various law enforcement agencies. Of the reported crimes, 46% constituted intimidation and 32% as simple assaults. In the property crimes, 3593 or 81% of the crimes involved acts of vandalism or destruction. Of the 7330 known offenders, white people constituted the largest proportion, which was 58. 6%, with blacks constituting 20. 6% of the known offenders. Most of the victims of these attacks (52%), were attacked due to being a part of a certain racial group.
Arguments for hate crime laws. Most people support hate crime laws and advocate for punishment which is more strict. They give the following reasons as justification; The first reason is that an attack on the core identity of a person causes severe dehumanization and degradation effects to the person. He or she is likely to suffer from psychological and emotional problems as a result of the attack. Another reason is that people who undergo this type of attack are likely to retaliate in future, and these attacks are likely to be more vicious than the original attack.
If these crimes are not controlled, the society may disintegrate as a result of hate crimes, hence the need for severe laws against it. According to the US Supreme Court, the penalties of hate crimes were found not to be in contravention to the freedom of expression, since rather than punishing individuals for practicing their freedom of expression, it allowed courts to analyze the motives of such actions and if they are deemed to be criminal in nature. Before enacting the Hate Crimes Act, the legislature explained the reasons for enacting the act.
It stated that hate crimes went beyond threatening the welfare and safety of citizens. These crimes inflicted incalculable emotional and physical damage to victims, and they tore the fabric of free societies. According to Herek and Berrill (2001), the legislature went ahead and explained that hate crimes went beyond inflicting damage to individuals or groups; they send a message of discrimination and intolerance to society to members of the society where the victim originates.
Hate crimes also disrupt and intimidate societies and destroys the civility needed for a democratic society to exist. Democratic societies dictate that people do not have to approve practices and beliefs of others, but they are also not allowed to commit criminal activities as a result of these actions. The current laws that exist do not adequately address the seriousness in which hate crimes affect individual safety and public order, which necessitates the need to make these laws more strict. The legislature recommends that such crimes be punishable with the severity which is appropriate.