Hate Crimes In The United States: Causes, History, And Prevention

Hate is the feeling of having an intense or passionate dislike for someone or something. A hate crime is a criminal offense committed against a person or property, which is motivated, in whole or in part, by a person’s bias against a race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Hate crimes are committed due to racial, religious, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and political biases. The main motivations for offenders of hate crimes are thrill seeking, defensive, retaliatory, and mission operated. To begin with, the concept of hate crimes emerged around the 1970s. By the end of the twentieth century, laws mandating additional penalties for prejudice motivated crimes had been passed by the federal government and many U. S. states. Understanding how people can commit such heinous acts is extremely complicated. However, certain theories may help conclude an explanation for why individuals commit hate crimes. The strain theory developed by Robert Merton could be one explanation. This theory states that the society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals.

One reason people feel hatred is due to jealousy and insecurity. To be socially acceptable, you must dress a certain way, have a certain amount of money, etc. Those social strains make people who cannot meet the social standards insecure of others who do or jealous of others who do. Another theory that could explain why individuals commit hate crimes would be the social learning theory. The social learning theory was developed by Albert Bandura. Bandura’s theory states that behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning. A lot of hate crimes are due to the victim being different than the other person whether it is a difference of race, religion, gender, etc. No one is born with hatred in their heart. Racism or homophobia is taught and learned. The United States has done an acceptable job at responding to the violence implemented by hate. The first federal hate crimes statute was signed into law by President Johnson in 1968. Ever since, the Department of Justice has done their best with enforcing federal hate crime laws. This statute made is a crime to use, or threaten to use, force to willingly interfere with any person because of color, race, religion or national origin. In 1996, the Church Arson Prevention Act was passed by Congress.

Under this act, defacing, destroying, or damaging religious property is a crime. This Act also prohibits defacing, destoring, or religious property because of the race or ethnicity of persons associated with the property. The Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 required a collection of nationwide data on hate crimes. A goal of this act was to capture information about the types of biases that motivate crimes, the nature of the offenses, and victim and offender information. Another goal was to increase public and law enforcement awareness about these crimes. The last major response to hate crimes is The Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was the first statute allowing federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. One of the major influences to the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was the death of Matthew Shepard. Matthew Shepard was a twenty-one year old openly gay college student. On October 12, 1998, he walked into a bar and two men started chatting with him. These two men lured Shepard into their pickup truck.

One of the men pulled a gun out and beat Shepard in the face before seizing his wallet. They drove about a mile and a half out of town down a dirt path. The two men tied Shepard up to a fence, beat him more with the gun, stole his shoes and left him to die. He remained tied to the fence for about eighteen hours before he was found. The other major influence to the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was the James Byrd Jr. murder. James Byrd Jr. was forty-nine years old and the father of three. On June 7, 1998 around two o’clock in the morning, James Byrd Jr. left a party and started walking home. On his way home, three men in a pickup truck pulled up next to him, Byrd recognizing one of them. Byrd Jr. hopped in the back of the truck, and the men drove Byrd up a dirt road. They beat him and chained his ankles to the back of their truck. With his ankles chained to their truck, they drug him for about a mile and a half before Byrd hit an exposed Calvert, causing his right arm, neck and head to tear off from his body.

The three men dumped his other remains in front of a black church, left to be discovered the following morning. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed in 2009 by President Obama amended the Hate Crime Statistics Act and added new federal protections. The new act investigates crimes committed against those based on biases of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and gender as well as race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin. Thousands of people die every year because of hate. Hate is caused by many different actions and feelings, and some people use it as a motivation to commit crime. Although, as a whole, we cannot stop others from hating, we can try to figure out why and prevent individuals from acting upon it. The United States has made many acts to attempt to stop others from committing hate crimes, but there is no absolute solution to crime.

10 October 2020
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