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Hate Crimes Continue To Linger In U.S.

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Ku Klux Klansmen and women at a cross lighting. Image used under terms of a Creative Commons License.
Amid All The Progress Made Over The Last Several Decades, Hate-Based Crime Refuses To Go Away

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By John Monahan
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 15, 2011 — It is a historical fact that the United States of America — home to more than 300 million different, vibrant people — has had a tumultuous time with race and gender equality and tolerance.

The examples are numerous and horrendous.

The first modern republic was built on the backs of slaves and the torturous ways it propagated. Women and southern blacks did not have the right to vote until the 20th century. Homosexuals have been beaten and killed. Hispanics have been segregated and profiled for centuries.

The list can go on and on.

Over the past few decades, though, attention and action have served to awaken and energize those eager to make the U.S. a place where people are treated equally and are not targeted based on anything that denies them as a person. The civil-rights movement and the establishment of laws that make crimes based on race, gender or sexual orientation have further served to institutionalize the cause of equality.

But no matter what has been done, the fact remains that the U.S. still has issues with race and gender. The Federal Bureau of Investigations’ 2010 Hate Crime Report bears this out. While the FBI was quick to point out that the amount of hate crimes did not increase in 2010, the saddening fact is that it did not go down.

Hatred and hate crimes remain a stone in the shoe of this country as tries to enforce the creed first introduced in the Declaration of Independence in 1776: that all people are created equal.

According to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report for 2010, the 6,628 hate crime incidents were reported to the bureau by law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. insignificantly up from the 6,604 incidents reported in 2009. Most local law enforcement agencies in the country gave data to the FBI for the 2010 report, representing more than 285 million people, or 92.3 percent of the nation’s population.

Of the 6,628 hate crime incidents reported in 2010, all but four of them involved a single bias — 47.3 percent of the single-bias incidents were motivated by race; 20 percent by religion; 19.3 by sexual orientation; 12.8 percent by an ethnicity/national origin bias; and 0.6 by physical or mental disability.

Granted, the FBI takes a proactive approach in trying to investigate and document such crimes and they have been out front on such issues since the 1960s.

“Almost a fourth of our 2010 civil rights caseload involved crimes motivated by a particular bias against the victim,” said Eric Thomas, our civil rights chief in Washington, D.C., “and we frequently worked these cases with state and local law enforcement to ensure that justice was done—whether at the state level or at the federal level.”

And the fact that almost all of the local law enforcement agencies cooperate with the FBI reporting requirements shows that most localities and municipalities are no longer tacitly supporting such acts.

“This report, and the FBI’s hate crime data collection effort as a whole, would not have been possible without the support of national and state criminal justice organizations and the thousands of law enforcement agencies nationwide whose officers investigate, identify, and report hate crimes to us,” according to the FBI press release.

But the mere fact that such things are happening should be a wake-up call for the U.S., with the biggest problem still being a black and white issue — literally.

Race was the biggest category for these crimes, with 3,135 incidents in 2010. Blacks were the most frequent target, as 2,201 incidents targeted that group. Anti-white incidents marked the second-highest race-based incidents, though, with 575 incidents.

But the hate problem isn’t just black and white, its all of the colors of the rainbow, too.

There were 1,322 crimes based on religion, with the 887 targeting Jews ranking the highest, even out-distancing crimes against Muslims for their beliefs, which only totaled 160. Sexual orientation is also a target of hate, with 1,277 total incidents in 2010. Most of these incidents were against gay men, with 739 incidents. Hispanics were targeted 584 times.

Thankfully, the vast majority of these crimes were intimidation alone — 46.2 percent of 2010 offenses. But 34.8 percent involved “simple” assault and 18.4 percent involved aggravated assault.

Even worse, the FBI has deemed that six people lost their lives, and four others were raped because of their race, creed or religion.

Sure, it is great that these numbers are not rising. But the fact that they are happening at all is proof that there is still much work to be done.

John Monahan is a freelance writer living in Connecticut.
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