What is a hate crime? & How do you distinguish one? In this article we will defining the terms as well as discussing the statistics of hate crimes that have taken place. We have also pointed out certain laws that were enforced that specifically cater to eradicate hate crimes in the United States.
A hate crime (also known as a bias-motivated crime or bias crime, is a prejudice-motivated crime which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of their membership (or perceived membership) of a certain social group or racial demographic. Examples of such groups can include, and are almost exclusively limited to ethnicity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, age, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Incidents may involve physical assault, homicide, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse (which includes slurs) or insults, mate crime, or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail). A hate crime law is a law intended to deter bias-motivated violence.
In the case of “Felix Bermea and Roy Messerschmidt, a same-sex couple who recently moved their four foster children to a home in Gilbert, where they say they have been harassed for the past several months. The couple has reported a break in, a phallic drawing outside their home, repeated knocking on their front door, and a fire set to the bushes on their property line. “While legally this is not considered a hate crime, in my opinion and in the opinion of a lot of the gay community, it is a hate crime,” said concerned citizen Forrest Kruger at a community meeting on July 11. Kruger was one of several people who had heard of the Bermea-Messerschmidt family’s situation and felt the Gilbert police were not taking the harassment seriously enough. “These people are being targeted, and they have been terrorized for months now, when does it stop?”
Laws: “Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, enacted 18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2), permits federal prosecution of anyone who “willfully injures, intimidates or interferes with, or attempts to injure, initimidate or interfere with … any person because of his race, color, religion or national origin” or because of the victim’s attempt to engage in one of six types of federally protected activities, such as attending school, patronizing a public place/facility, applying for employment, acting as a juror in a state court or voting. Persons violating this law face a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. If bodily injury results or if such acts of intimidation involve the use of firearms, explosives or fire, individuals can receive prison terms of up to 10 years, while crimes involving kidnapping, sexual assault, or murder can be punishable by life in prison or the death penalty. U.S. District Courts provide for criminal sanctions only. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 contained a provision at 42 U.S.C. § 13981 which allowed victims of gender-motivated hate crimes to seek “compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive and declaratory relief, and such other relief as a court may deem appropriate”.
A hate crime is defined by the FBI as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, nd signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009, as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 (H.R. 2647). Conceived as a response to the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., both in 1998, the measure expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The bill also:
- Removes, in the case of hate crimes related to the race, color, religion, or national origin of the victim, the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity, like voting or going to school.
- Gives federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue.
- Provides $5 million per year in funding for fiscal years 2010 through 2012 to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.
- Requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to track statistics on hate crimes based on gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups were already tracked).”
The vast majority of hate crimes are directed against people of color, religious minorities, and LGBTQ people. Among reported hate crimes, racially motivated crime is the most common. Nearly half of race-based hate crimes target Black people. While the number of hate crimes involving religious bias has decreased over the last year, Americans continue to be targeted on the basis of their faith. In 2018, nearly 60% of such crimes targeted Jewish people and Jewish institutions. One in five hate crimes targets LGBTQ people.
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