An Introduction to the Issue of Hate Crimes in the United States
Hate crimes are violent crimes committed against people, property, or organization of a specific social, ethnic, or religious background. According to the FBI thirty percent of hate crimes in 1996 were committed against property; such as theft, vandalism, and setting fire to vehicles, homes, stores, and places of worship. The other seventy percent were against people. The scope of the crimes against people range from slander and assault to rapes and murders.
Contrary to popular belief, most hate crimes are not committed by the Ku Klux Klan or neo-nazis organizations. Statistics show that the average law-abiding citizen commits these crimes and does not see anything wrong with their actions while doing such a heinous act. Occasionally, alcohol and drugs may help fuel these crimes, but personal prejudice stemming from their own lack of being and security becomes the ultimate determining factor.
Why do hate crimes occur? They are a message to a specific group that they are inferior to another group. The largest numbers of hate crimes are related to race. African-Americans are at the greatest risk. Resentment of ethnic minorities has become the cause of many hate crimes. Hipics and Asians are increasingly becoming targets of race related crimes. But recent months past Muslim Americans have become the targets of hate crimes stemming from the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. Another motive of discrimination is religion. This crime is usually in the form of vandalism of church property, although personal attacks are common. The majority of the crimes have been toward the Jewish population.
Gender related biases are also motives for crimes. Since before the 1800 s Women have been and still are suppressed by their male counterpart. Although this type of crime seems more domesticated, recently these acts of violence have been characterized as hate crimes. Statistics show that seven out of one thousand women are raped each year and about 21% of these rapes occurred by a male partner. In addition, more than half of all women murdered in the US in the 1980s we killed by partners.
Moving up in the ranks of hate crimes is those committed against gays and lesbians. They are likely targets because they are viewed as weak and submissive to their aggressor. Another group that is targeted by hate crimes is the disabled. Both people with mental and physical disabilities are victims of many types of hate crimes including sexual and physical abuse. Some perceive people with disabilities to be not equal and contributing members of society, thus they become victimized.
There is no real evidence to conclude just how many hate crimes are committed each year. The government has taken jurisdiction over all matters of relating to hate crimes. However, it is up to the local officials to turn the cases over to federal agency. States that have well documented cases of hate crimes are the states that report the least number of crimes. Another factor that deters the accurate account of hate crimes is that victims more often that not than do not report them authorities. This is especially true in cases when crimes have been committed against gay and lesbian individuals. Victims in the gay and lesbian community are the least likely to report such crimes out of fear of the attacker or of the justice system. One other reason victims do not report these crimes are because they may feel that reporting it is useless.
America was once a mostly white Christian culture and people of different races, creeds, and ethnic backgrounds were and are clearly the minority. However, this is the twenty-first century and as a nation we must stick, together to weed out and extinguish hatred where ever it rears its ugly head. Especially as a young generation, we must see to it that we are more tolerant to people with different beliefs than our own and give patience to generations that have come before us.