Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are a common occurrence in the modern world. Alternatively referred to as bias crimes, hate crimes are inspired by prejudice against an individual’s religion (e.g. Islam), race, sexual orientation (e.g. homosexuals), or personal characteristics such as height and weight, (Human Rights First, 2007). Accordingly, hate crime may be defined, as “a crime directed against members of a particular group simply because of their membership [to] that group” (Medoff, 1999, p. 960). Hate crimes encompass extreme forms of violence which, when encouraged, could lead to genocide acts (Medoff, 1999). This paper discusses the profile of a typical hate crime perpetrator, their targets, causes and effects of the crimes and approaches that can mitigate hate crime incidence.

The characteristics of hate crime perpetrators have attracted a broad spectrum of inquests. Harry (1990), for instance, notes that offenders usually have no history of criminal behavior (as cited in Medoff, 1999, p. 960). Similarly, hate crimes perpetrators are suggested to have little knowledge of the victim, and inhabit areas far away from the victims’ place of residence; unlike the case of crimes such as assaults which involve individuals who are well acquainted with one another (Medoff, 1999, p. 960). In respect to age, youthful individuals have been implicated the most as offenders. In the United States, for instance, about two thirds of hate crime offenders are suggested to be below the age of 24 (Nutter, 2007, p. 171).

A different classification of hate crime offenders could be based on the reason behind the offence. In this respect, the highest prevalence of hate crimes, 66 percent, has been attributed to a thrill-seeking behavior (Nutter, 2007, p. 173; Shirley & Mulford, 2007, p. 11). Other offenders could be acting on a defensive agenda (25 percent), retaliatory agenda (8 percent) or a mission assignment (1 percent) (Nutter, 2007, p. 173; Shirley & Mulford, 2007, p. 11). Mission assignments include misguided beliefs that one has been commissioned to cleanse the world of a specific “evil” (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2007).  This categorization reinforces the suggestion that most hate crime perpetrators act on a biased attribution of the fault to the victims, rather than any prior actions of the victim towards the offenders (Medoff, 1999). By perceiving the victim to be the one at fault, hate crime perpetrators thus lose any sense of guilt for their actions (Medoff, 1999).

The targets of hate crimes are spread across a broad spectrum of individuals. Individuals could for instance become victims of hate crime based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation (Medoff, 1999; Human Rights First, 2007). Individuals mainly targeted by offenders fall under various hate crime genres. Firstly is antisemitism, a very pronounced form of racism and religious intolerance that is still predominant in North America and Europe (Human Rights First, 2007). This form mainly targets Jews, with its proponents using the role of Israel in the Middle East conflict, as a ploy to target Jews in other areas (Human Rights First, 2007). Similar hate crimes can be noted of Muslims who become victims of violence due to anti-Islamic sentiments in many countries; a situation that has been aggravated by government policies established to in response to global terrorism (Human Rights First, 2007). Apart from religion and race-oriented hate crimes, other common targets of hate crimes are based on sexual orientation as exemplified by homophobia, which predominates in many countries in the world (Human Rights First, 2007).

The antecedents of hate crimes may be identified in entrenched stereotypes about a certain group of people, or a particular characteristic they possess. Through stereotypes, members of various affiliations become associated with “wrong” attributes that the offenders believe they have a duty to rectify (Human Rights First, 2007). Offenders thus chose out-groups that they perceive to represent such aspects as immorality and stupidity, then target any member of such out-groups for the hate crime-related activities (Medoff, 1999). Other aspects that could lead to hate crimes include trappings of authority, pressure to conform to societal norms and an attempt by a minority group to secure an equivalent level of resources as that controlled by a majority group (Medoff, 1999). When hate crime progresses unabatedly, it could lead to heinous acts such as genocide. Examples of these include the extermination of Jews during the Nazi rule in Germany and the Rwanda genocide events. Go to part 2 here.

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