Betre Melles visits the grave of his friend, Mulugeta Seraw, killed in a racial hate crime in November 1988. Photo Courtesy of The Oregonian, www.oregonlive.com
A hate crime is any crime that is committed against a person or group of people explicitly because of that person’s actual or perceived race, religion, skin color, ethnicity, gender, disability, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects statistics on hate crimes, specifically about the criminal offenses committed and the motivation for such crimes. The crimes must have what authorities describe as a “bias” against the victim’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, etc.
Usually, the underlying root-cause of hate crimes in psychological. It’s something that is learned from childhood and may reflect the underlying religious or political beliefs of the child’s parents. As the child grows up with these biases, they “harden” in the person’s psyche.
Of course, personal biases aren’t always the result of a parent’s bias being passed down to the child. Sometimes, environmental influences, like where a person lives, influences personal biases. For example, a person growing up in an atheistic communist country may be biased against religion – all religion – regardless of the parent’s beliefs (or lack thereof).
Children who have friends that are racists or homophobic may grow up to be racist or homophobic themselves. Sometimes, enough exposure to certain literature can even form the basis of a person’s biases.
While official statistics for 2013 have yet to be published by the FBI, the agency indicates that, in 2013, hate crimes decreased from the previous year. In 2012, hate crimes totaled 5,796, with 6,718 offenses being committed. This is down from 2011’s figures of 6,222 reported crimes involving 7,164 offenses.
A stunning 48.3 percent of the crimes reported were committed because of the race of the victim. Another 19.6 percent of crimes were due to sexual orientation bias. Another 19 percent were due to religious bias, while ethnicity and disability made up only 11.5 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.
Racial bias still leads the way in hate crimes, with 54.6 percent of the offenders being white and 23.3 percent being black. Roughly 39.6 percent of the crimes against people were simple assaults, while 37.5 percent were reported as intimidated and 21.5 percent were victims of aggravated assault. Property damage was overwhelmingly (75.6 percent) vandalism, destruction, or damage.
What’s Being Done To Combat Hate Crimes
A new law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was enacted in 2009 to help prevent and reduce the number of hate crimes nation-wide. It was conceived by Congress, and signed into law by President Obama, in response to the two brutal murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr.
Shepard was a student who was tortured and murdered in 1998. His crime? Being homosexual. Byrd was an African American who was murdered by 2 white supremacists – dragged by his feet from the back of a pickup truck until he was finally decapitated.
Whether this law ultimate reduces the number of hate crimes remains to be seen. Some critics point out that existing laws, which were already strict, failed to produce more hate crime convictions in states like Texas. For example, of the 200 police-reported hate crimes from 2001 to 2012, only 10 convictions have been secured by the DA.
The problem? It’s hard to prove that the crime was motivated by hate. Unless there’s obvious or overwhelming evidence (i.e. the suspect confesses), there’s little prosecutors can do to prove the crime was “biased.”
Still, proponents of the law praise it as a step forward. Indeed hate crimes are often the most brutal and violent of crimes being committed today. Anything that curbs them, or enacts punishment for them may well be a step towards a more perfect justice system.
If you’re looking for more information on hate crimes in the U.S., visit the FBI’s website. It publishes its Hate Crime Statistics every year. Also, make sure you check out the Department of Justice’s entry for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
What You Can Do to Help
Back Up The Content, If Legal
If possible, back up the content in question, but be careful. U.S. copyright laws forbid the unauthorized copying of copyright-protected material. In most cases, you’ll be violating the law by copying the offending content. Check to make sure there is no copyright protection before you copy or backup any content that’s not yours.
Report The Content To Authorities
Report the hate content to the authorities. This can be done through any complaint bureau, but a good one is the International Network Against Cyberhate (INACH).
Report The Content To The Webmaster’s ISP or Webhost
Open up http://whois.domaintools.com/. In the search field, type in the website. Then, you’ll get a list of details regarding the hosting company of the website. Furthermore you can click on the WHOIS link and get more information that includes the domain registrar, the website owners and operators, the contact information, and other important information. Use this to report the offending website to the website’s hosting provider.
You may or may not get an email back from the hosting company asking for more information. In many cases, the host will contact the website owner and ask to have the content removed. If the website owner refuses, law enforcement may get involved.
Reporting On Social Networks
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have made it fairly easy to report hate speech. On Facebook, all you need to do is do a screen capture of the particular post, or group, or picture in question. Then, click on “options” for the post. Then, select one of the options. For example, you can usually select “harassing a friend” or “hate speech” or something similar.
Twitter’s system is also easy. Screen capture the offending tweet, photo, or video. Then, click on “options” and “report tweet.” Click the “offensive comment” option and fill out all fields. Twitter will evaluate the tweet.
On YouTube, Google allows you to report videos as offensive. However, it is against Google’s TOS to download videos or share them as they may also be copyright-protected.
Most hate speech is intentional, and directed toward a person or group of people, with the intent to promote further hatred. If you want to learn more about what constitutes hate speech, visit the ACLU’s website or learn more through the American Bar Association.
Hate crimes continue to occur, despite passage of a landmark law in 2009, called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Unfortunately, most hate crimes in the U.S. are racially-motivated, according to statistics from the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics Report. Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it, if you happen to see a crime happening or know of an impending crime.Hate Crime Statistics USA (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr#cius_hatecrime) – The FBI publishes a report each year that details statistics for hate crimes. These statistics are published for the public, and there’s no fee for the information.FBI Civil Rights Program (http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/civilrights/hate.htm) – The FBI’s Civil Rights Program is tasked with investigating hate crimes, violence against abortion providers (i.e. hospitals and clinics), and also investigates Federal discrimination claims involving employers or businesses-consumer relationships.The Anti-Defamation League (http://www.adl.org/) – The anti-defamation league fights all manner of anti-semitism and bigotry. Its job is to investigate the roots of hatred against Jews and is an important resource for local law enforcement as well as the media.The International Network Against Cyberhate (http://www.inach.net) – The INCH serves as a unifying voice online for the protection of individuals against cyber hate and hate speech. While the foundation is governed under Dutch Law, it operates all over the Internet. Complaints may be made to the organization via its website.
The Center For the Study of Hate and Extremism (http://hatemonitor.csusb.edu/) – This organization sponsors lectures about hate and extremism while also providing additional resources for the public.
GLAAD (http://www.glaad.org/) – The famous Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation fights against homophobia.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Complaint Center(http://www.usccr.gov/filing/flndx.htm) – If you witness a hate crime, you may contact the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights through one of its several complain lines or email.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation (http://www.matthewshepard.org/) – The foundation tells the story of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year old individual who was murdered in 1998 because he was gay. The foundation helps fight for the rights of all homosexuals and helps others “come out.”
Partners Against Hate (http://www.partnersagainsthate.org/) – This organization is a joint effort by the Anti-Defamation League, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, and the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence. Its goal is to fight hate crimes among young people.
Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project (http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intpro.jsp) – The SPLC monitors hate groups. If you know of one, you may report it here.
The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism(http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/) – This organization takes a non-political approach to organizing, accumulating, and disseminating information about antisemitism.
The Ken Eaton Foundation(http://healingheartsandopeningminds.org/understanding_hate_crime) – The Ken Eaton Foundation is set up to honor its namesake, who was murdered in 1988 in an anti-gay hate crime. Its purpose is to help others who have been victimized by hate crimes.
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (http://www.aaldef.org) – The organization helps provide financial, legal, and other support for Asian Americans.
Local Police or 911 – Your local police department can be contacted if you witness, or are a victim of, a hate crime. You can also dial 911 from any touch-tone phone (even cell phones) for emergency assistance.
Hate Crime Network – The Hate Crime Network exists so that any individual may report a hate crime. The organization’s number is 206-350-4283. It is not a police station or affiliated with any police department.