Race and Ethnicity
Hate crime is a crime committed against a person simply because he or she represents a certain group or lifestyle different from the offender. Most commonly hate crimes focus on race and ethnicity, but also can include religion, sexual orientation, gender, and age. In 2002 almost 49 percent of hate crimes were based on race and another 15 percent based on ethnicity or national origin. Some 67 percent of victims attacked based on race were black Americans.
The term "hate crime" came into use in the mid-1980s in the media and by politicians. The term quickly caught on in the criminal justice systems. In 1990 the FBI began gathering hate crime data, which is probably much lower than the actual number of hate crimes that have occurred. Many jurisdictions, however, did not provide statistics to the FBI until the 1990s progressed. Other factors affecting statistics include under reportage of crimes due to victims who fear retaliation and distrust law enforcement.
Hate crimes involve criminal behavior already prohibited by law, such as assault, murder, and vandalism. Hate crimes can also be against property, such as destruction or vandalism. By the early twenty-first century, over forty states had
passed some form of hate crime legislation. Some states make hate crimes separate from other crimes, while other states passed hate crime bills that influence only the penalty phase of cases.
Hate crimes can be vicious and brutal since the crime comes from intense anger or rage. Victims of hate crimes are three times more likely to need hospital treatment. Many consider hate crimes as a form of domestic terrorism since they are commonly intended to send a message to a larger social group for whom the offender has deep hostilities. They are usually unprovoked by the victim and often appear random.
Hate crime victims are usually selected because of who they are, not something they have done. Attacks are generally based on personal characteristics of which victims have no control, such as skin color or gender. Studies show such crimes lead to tremendous emotional distress for the victims, as well as their communities and society as a whole.
The causes of hate crime can vary. Sometimes the offender suffers from severe mental illness. Other times, hate crimes are "thrill" crimes for youthful offenders, perhaps to gain acceptance among peers or as a gang initiation, or for revenge or retaliation. Organized hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nation engaged in hate crimes for years. In the 1990s white supremacist groups had an estimated membership of 50,000, and had developed a strong presence in prisons.
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