Racially Motivated Hate Crimes

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Racially Motivated Hate Crimes

Racially Motivated Hate Crimes


A hate crime is an act of violence, a threat, harassment, or property damage motivated by bigotry and prejudice against the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of another group or individual. These acts are not only against the victim(s), but also the particular group as a whole. Hate crimes are very common and often times it is hard to tell whether or not the crime is motivated by hate.

Racially Motivated Hate Crimes

Many people assume that hate crime offenders are hate-filled Nazi's or "skinheads". But research by a clinical psychologist at the University of California shows that out of 1,459 cases in the span of a year less than 5 percent were members of a hate group (http://www.hatecrime.org). Most hate crimes are carried out by, seemingly, law-abiding young people who do not think their actions are wrong. Sometimes drugs and alcohol help initiate these crimes, but the main factor appears to be personal prejudice. Personal prejudice is what blinds a person from seeing the wrong in what they are doing. Most times this prejudice comes from an environment that sees differences as threats. The worst hate crimes are often committed by people with a history of antisocial behavior. One of these examples took place in June of 1998 in Jasper, Texas. Three men, with jail records, offered a ride to a black man with a limp. After beating him to death, they dragged him behind their truck until his body was partially dismembered (http://hatecrime.org).

Hate crimes--violent acts against people, property, or organizations because of the group to which they belong or identify with--are a tragic part of American history. However, it wasn't until early in this decade that the federal government began to collect data on how many and what kind of hate crimes are being committed, and by whom. Thus, the statistical history on hate crimes is meager.

Psychological studies are also fairly new. Nevertheless, scientific research is beginning to yield some good perspectives on the general nature of crimes committed because of real or perceived differences in race, religion, ethnicity or national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.

According to the FBI, about 30% of hate crimes in 1996, the most recent year for which figures are available, were crimes against property. They involved robbing, vandalizing, destroying, stealing, or setting fire to vehicles, homes, stores, or places of worship.

About 70% involve an attach against a person. The offense can range from simple assault (i.e., no weapon is involved) to aggravated assault, rape, and murder. This kind of attack takes place on two levels; not only is it an attack on one's physical self, but it is also an attack on one's very identity.

Studies tell us that in all-boy pairs or groups, at least in the United States, physical aggression seems to remain both relatively high and constant over the childhood years (Fabes, Knight, & Higgins, 1995). It has been documented that educators, sociologists, and even ...
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