Understanding Hate Crimes
People have different feelings towards different culture, beliefs, religion, sexual orientation among other values demonstrated in a culturally, economically and socially diverse society (Archer, 1995). Hate crime refers to the perpetration of violence in form of bigotry or intolerance to a race, national origin, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability or even religion (Betts, 1986). Such violence are done to intimidate or hurt others, most likely a minority group, by use of vandalism, arson, physical violence, explosive and most commonly verbal threats. Such victims are left helpless, vulnerable, fearful and with a feeling of being an alienated group. Such groups become desperate and look upon for intervention of the authorities in all possible means. The action taken by the government or the community to protects such groups of people through public condemnation or enactment of laws to cater for such groups help to protect healthier societies from falling victims.
Hate crimes are believed to possess immense potential threats, which have already been experienced in various cities and countries. These are experienced in form of civil disturbances, racial conflicts, and at extreme cases it may result to riots. This was experienced in Singapore in 1964 between Chinese and Malay (Best & Kellner, 1981). Such disturbances result into deaths, property destructions and other interference in both social and economic integration of the societies. A mass-based hate crime has been experienced in recent years in countries, such as Rwanda, where racial genocide claimed over five hundred lives. Moreover, the United State is one of the places, where hate crime has been prevalent, especially towards the black-Americans who form the second largest minority after Hispanics group. It, therefore, becomes a governmental, intergovernmental and regional concern to provide solution to this menace.
For many years, the hate crime problem has attracted attention of many researchers, especially from law enforcement individuals and criminologists from 1980s (Foucalt, 1972). This has helped in the formulation of criminal justice for the benefits of the minority groups. For many years, the effort to thwart the crime has mainly focused on supervising, restraining, incapacitating and monitoring those who have committed the crimes. In the past, legislative measures have been used in most places and the benefits from rehabilitative treatment and punitive sanctions are not in any way conclusive. New methods have to be deployed, and some few researchers and policymakers feel that understanding of hate crime will make a greater contribution in solving this problem (Garland, 2001).
To deal with this problem, the U.S. formed a Community Relations Service (CRS), a branch in the department of justice to prevent and resolve civil disorders, racism, violence and ethnic conflicts (Foucalt, 1980a). The major approach of this department has been to establish techniques that would work best for every community. This has been by use of use specialized crisis management means. The urge to form this department was as a result of high hate crime rate experienced in the U.S., for example, in the year 1994, the data below was received:
Understanding crime rate begins with appreciating the laws that have been made over years to ensure harmony in the co-existence in a diverse community (Foucalt, 1980b). In the U.S. the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act was established in 1994. The main purpose was to make the United State Sentencing Commission to, upon establishing a hate crime executed beyond the reasonable doubt, enhance sentencing into not below a 3 offence level. In May 1995, the commission reported a full enforcement of the new law as recommended by the Congress. The Violence Against Women Act was also established in the year 1994 to help contain the violence that was being committed against women. This law provided for punitive damage award, compensation and injunctive relief upon any crime motivated by gender. The Church Arson Prevention Act was enacted in 1988 purposely for religious vandalism jurisdiction (Hinders, 1988). The relevance of this law as far as hate crime is concerned was evident in statistics available between 1995 and 1998. Out of 658 investigations made towards the house of worship, 220 targeted Africa-American institutions. 44 of the people arrested were African Americans, while Juveniles formed 117 and, therefore, cultural and social diversity seemed to be great motivation (Law, 1986). The Hate Crime Prevention Act was introduced to prevent intimidations, threats and interference intentions based on religion, color, country of origin and race. These are just some of the laws that have been enacted to contain the situation. With such laws, the environment to facilitate understanding of hate crimes is conducive as the associated penalties for none compliance are very high.
Unfortunately, the majority of the people guided by their cultural practices are not aware when they are committing hate crimes. Therefore, the basis of addressing hate crime is important to let people understand what constitutes the hate crime and the possible repercussions. In a country like the U.S., this has been achieved by use of Community Relationship Service (CRS). For example, when 3 blacks were wounded in Ku Klux Klan (KKK) after shootings were executed in a black nightclub, CRS went to the place to try and influence the perception of people towards each other (Owen, 2006a). They made several conciliation meetings with the different races and encouraged them to live harmoniously. This is a prevention measure that can help reduce hate crimes since the perception of the white was that the blacks were not to enjoy better facilities (Owen, 2006b). By enlightening the youths who were conducting the crime that is inappropriate and convincing them that everyone had the rights to entertainment, hate crime was likely to reduce.
Different schools and leaders of sought assistance from CRS to help contain the tension that was growing day by day, especially after a series of hate crimes arose in the recruitments into schools against the between Alaskan and the blacks (Pinker, 1994). When management in an organization understands the hate crimes, they ensure that the policies they make for the organizations do not perpetrate hate crimes in any way. For example, a company that hires employees from different nationalities and provides similar terms of contracts helps to modify the perception of other employees on the foreigner employees (Poster, 1999). However, that is not enough. It’s important to make sure that the employees value the contribution of the foreigners in the organization. This is because, in various places and especially when a country is experiencing an economic recession, some people tend to perceive expatriates as people who have taken their jobs away. This may cause riots or even assaults to the foreigners (Sibeon, 1996). Such a scenario was witnessed in South Africa, when citizens rose against the Zimbabwe people who were working, especially in mines. Prior understanding that such a move amounted to a crime would help the locals perceive the foreign labour more as a skill brought into the country to complement and facilitate their employment rather than their substitutes. Education about hate crime help people know, when they are getting to it and hence facilitate stopping before the heinous crime occurs.
Apart from learning, when one is getting to an activity or action that will amount to hate crime, it’s important to understand the hate crime indicators. Effort has been made by law enforcement experts and national agencies to ensure that people are able to identify these indicators by going to an extent of providing lists of hate crimes. Of these, victim perceptions and witnesses form a reliable indicator. The perception that they demonstrate is based on their past experience, identification of perpetrators, circumstance and place of attacks and prejudices experienced. This may form a basis of identifying the existence of hate crime, which may facilitate legal action and hence preventing further crime (Sibeon, 2004).
For somebody who is conversant of what hate crime consists of, he can be able to tell a perpetrator through his conducts. Ideally, perpetrators always make prejudice after, before or during the act. This, in most cases, is in the form of symbols or words used by the perpetrators. Perpetrators normally derive more joy by making it clear to the victims and sending message to the whole group of the minority group of his prejudice. It’s, however, common to come across a situation whereby hate crime exists among the minority or the minority against the majority. This takes place in a situation, where though a group is the minority in the larger scope; it is the majority locally (Sibeon, 1996). A victim is, therefore, a person who is over numbered in the place, where the incident occurred, who is attacked by another member of the minority or who is attacked by members of the other groups. This understanding enables one to be decisive after witnessing a situation that may indicate a hate crime that has already occurred. This is possible, because such understanding helps one to see the victim differently from the attacker. Another indication may be where the victim is a rights activist, religious leader, public spokesperson among others. One may tell the offender by paying attention to his behavior. The indicator may be demonstrating that he belongs to a hate group, or indications of his prejudice to the group, where the victim belongs (Shilling, 1993). Also, if the offender has a history of crimes against the minority, then it may help to tell an occasion that is likely to amount to hate crime. A sensitized society will have various means of communicating and even ensuring that the whole society knows about such a case. This may be through the use of TV, radio or internet. The understanding of these crimes helps one to tell, when adequate coverage of the incident has been made and if not, he may always seek a different alternative to ensure that the message is communicated.
Another indication that may help people knowing when hate crime is occurring results from property indicators. This is where an attack made on property indicates some form of bias motivations. The first indication is when the property belongs or is relevant to a group of people that faces discrimination. A property may possess some symbolic importance to a community or maybe a church, mosque or synagogues, monument, cemetery or any other historic figure that is closely associated to a particular community. If there is any connection to the current attack to any other previous attacks, then a greater indication can be obtained. This knowledge can be incorporated in the strategies of controlling the crime by using such understanding to lobby the government. This may include an appeal to the leaders to condemn such acts in their public speeches. Additionally, with the new technologies, victims and other concerned individuals may launch a petition through the website for a stronger hate crime laws.
Sometimes it’s important to understand the motives or possibility of hate crimes being executed by an organized group. It’s even more important to access the possibility of bias motivation in a perpetrator’s association, whose ideologies are based on prejudice and the group has a record history of such activities. It is imperative to note that there are countries, where association with a group having a hate crime motive automatically amounts to criminal prosecution and also any activity conducted by an individual within the group is equally punishable. The indication may be through statements made before or after the act e.g. al-Qaeda claimed that it was the one responsible for bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, which was a form of group of hate crime. Similar threats are being made by other militia groups, such as al-Shabaab to countries like Kenya and the U.S. The Hate Crime Act may also coincide with a particular significant hate group effect, such as a campaign or a rally. With understanding of such crimes, people can assist in ensuring that such information are covered by the media to discourage perpetrators from behaving that way in future. In an extreme case the community may riots to the streets of the city to draw the leaders’ attention into the matter in order to prevent subsequent occurrences.
With the understanding of the hate crime, different communities, groups and leaders may meet so as to harmonize the differences that exist and agree on how to bring about stability. This is carried out through a technique called conciliation and mediation. In the U.S., this is facilitated by CRS by setting the rules to be observed in the meetings and facilitating it. Sometimes, the community is also able to develop some technical skills that help in making and executing policies, procedures and practices in reaction to hate crimes. This understanding helps the community to view the problem from a similar perspective and can, therefore, be able to influence each other for the better. This acts as a self-collective mechanism. For example, the Southern Poverty Law centre introduced the Tolerance website with education materials for teachers, kids and parents to help develop tolerance to help people from starting the hate crimes.
Other benefits from a community that understand the hate crime is that they can cooperate with the authority to provide information that would be important in investigations. The officers are able to learn how to identify hate crimes based on the community witness and they also get the support of the community. Information shared with law enforcement agencies may be helpful to reduce the likelihood of hate crimes. Community understanding may facilitate volunteerism to serve in community watch control, rumor control and sensitizing the public on the offences and consequences of hate crime.
Understanding of this crime may be done through the education system. This is an option that has been employed in very many places to try and harmonize culture and socials perceptions that acts as a basis of prejudice. Education programs in schools help to nature mutual respect, destroy barriers, reduce fear and develop trust across ethnic lines and racial disparities. This helps create a long rusting cordial relationship among groups that would otherwise experience a lot problems in their interactions. Understanding hate crimes also facilitates event contingency planning, which is important in ensuring that no confrontations are experienced during demonstration, marches and other social activities.