Hate Crimes Hate Crimes Many political scientists and researchers to a number of policy arenas in the United States ranging from corporal punishment to the quality of urban life have applied Daniel Elazar’s concept of political cultures. For a vast majority of these policy programs, a considerable correlation has been found to exist between the region examined and its approach to a specific policy. Elazar focused on three primary political cultures: the Moralist political culture (MPC), the Individual political culture (IPC), and the Traditional political culture (TPC). With more widespread media coverage, hate crimes have become more prevalent and more publicized than ever before. The Benjamin Smith shootings and the murder of Matthew Shepard are only two examples of recent crimes, which have been considered hate crimes that have promoted politicians and legislators to address this ever-growing problem and formulate a solution.
This paper will attempt to define and uncover the history behind hate crime and the existing legislation. Furthermore, we will explain our own hypothesis then examine regional difference in the approaches to hate crimes and compare and contrast them to Daniel Elazar’s idea of political cultures. Our own hypothesis is that moralist cultures will have been the first to initiate hate crime policy and be most likely to have such policies followed by individualist, then traditionalist political cultures. Hate Crime: Definition and History Ever since the body of James Byrd was found in pieces on a road in east Texas, the authorities have been struggling to bring charges to reflect the horror of the crime. “Murder seems too pat: Mr.
Byrd was chained to a truck and dragged for almost three miles”. In Texas, simple murder does not carry the death penalty. But Mr. Byrd was black, apparently murdered by racists, so there is a call for this killing to be labeled a “hate crime”, for which the punishment is death by lethal injection (5). Every day in the United States someone is attacked on the basis of his or her race, religious affiliation, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation among other things. These attacks often take the form of verbal harassment but some end in violent assault or death.
Recent studies indicate a rise in the number of “bias” or “hate” crimes since 1985 (4). Congress has defined hate crimes as “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person” (1). Valerie Jenness and Ryken Grattet claim that “hate crime” have become a highly visible social problem that continues to garner national attention and elicit community activism (2). When, however, did the concept of “hate crimes” evolve? It was not until the late 1970’s that lawmakers in the United States began responding to a perceived escalation of racial, ethnic, religious, and other forms of intergroup conflict with a novel legal strategy: the criminalization of hate-motivated intimidation and violence. As a result of this strategy, most state legislatures passed at least one piece of “hate crime” legislation in the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s.
Such legislation was justified by the harassment and intimidation, assault, and destruction of property that was found to be particularly dangerous and socially disruptive when motivated by bigotry (3). The first hate crime law was passed in California in 1978, and since then hate crimes statues have taken many forms, including statues prescribing criminal penalties for civil rights violations, specific “ethnic intimidation” and “malicious harassment” statues, and provisions for enhanced penalties. These laws specify provision for race, religion, color, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability, creed, marital status, political affiliation, involvement in civil or human rights, and armed services personnel. Additionally, a few states require authorities to collect data on hate, or bias-motivated crimes, mandate the training of law enforcement personnel, prohibit paramilitary training, specify parental liability, and provide for victim compensation. Many states also have statutes that prohibit institutional vandalism and the desecration or defacement of religious objects, the interference with religious worship, cross-burning, the wearing of hoods or masks, the formation of secret societies, and the distribution of publications and advertisements designed to harass selected groups of individuals. This last group of laws dates back as early as the late nineteenth century in response to escalated Ku Klux Klan activity (3).
Who commits hate crime and who are they most likely to be directed toward? As with most crime, less violent hate crimes are committed more often than violent crimes but no matter the level of violence, all hate crimes are thought to negatively impact both the victim and society. Perpetrators of hate crimes are often characterized as young, white, lower-class males who commit the crimes for excitement or because of resentment of a minority group (4). 80% of hate crimes are directed at whites, blacks, Jews, and homosexuals, with offenses against blacks constituting the largest percentage of hate crimes. Not surprisingly, because minority groups are the main victims of hate crimes, they should have a vested interest in the passage of hate crime legislation. Minority groups may push for hate crime legislation simply as a reaction to the threat but they may also use the issue as a means to expand their political agenda (4).
The validity of hate crimes has been questioned. An article in The New Republic claims that “in the 1960’s, federal intervention was necessary in order to redress Southern states’ systematic and calculated indifference to crimes committed against blacks. The federal government had to step in because state courts refused to enforce their own laws and protect the lives and liberty of black citizens” (6). Addressing the Matthew Shepard case, the article felt that no constitutional violations were at issue and that it was simply an exercise in symbolic politics. Hate crime statues have been constitutionally challenged. In 1992 and 1993, the United States Supreme Court decided two cases addressing the constitutionality of statutes directed at bias-motivated intimidation and violence: R.A.V. v.
City of St. Paul and Wisconsin v. Mitchell. These well-known cases have now substantially defined which hate crime statutes are, and which are not, acceptable under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. These cases challenged the notion of free speech. Based on these cases, the American Defamation League has been strongly urging states to adopt penalty-enhancement statues based on the League’s model (7).
Before we examine the individual states approach to hate crimes, it is important to look at the action taken by the federal government in response to this rising concern. The first major act directed specifically at hate crimes was The Hate Crime Statistic Act (28 U.S.C. 534). Enacted in 1990, the HCSA requires the Justice Department to acquire date on crimes which “manifest prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity” from law enforcement agencies across the country and to publish an annual summary of the findings. In the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Congress expanded coverage of the HCSA to require FBI reporting on crimes based on “disability”.
The FBI’s more recent HCSA report, for 1996, documented 8,759 hate crimes reported by 11,355 agencies across the country. The FBI report indicated that about 63 percent of the reported hate crimes were race-based, with 14 percent committed against individuals on the basis of their religion, 11 percent on the basis of ethnicity, and 12 percent on the basis of sexual orientation (7). The Clinton Administration has taken recent action regarding hate crimes as well. On November 10, 1997, the President convened the first-ever White House Conference on Hate Crimes. At the Conference, the President announced significant law enforcement and prevention initiatives to get tough on hate crimes. The Conference examined the positive actions that communities are taking and outline the steps that can be taken to prevent hate crimes. Some of these initiatives included: fighting hate crimes through tough law enforcement, prosecuting hate crimes aimed at our houses of worship, working with communities against hate, and understanding the problem of hate crime.
As President Clinton stated in a radio address to the nation on June 7, 1997: Hate crimes .. leave deep scars not only on the victims, but also on our larger community. They weaken the sense that we are one people with common values and a common future. They tear us apart when we should be moving closer together. They are acts of violence against American itself .. As part of our preparation for the new century, it is time for us to mount and all-out assault on hate crimes, to punish them swiftly and severely, and to do more to prevent them from happening in the first place.
We must begin with a deeper understanding of the problem itself (8). A Comparative Look at State Hate Crime Policy We have examined the federal initiatives regarding hate crimes, but more importantly, how have individual states followed suit? Are there differences between states and if so, do those differences correlate to Daniel Elazar’s concept of political cultures? As Elazar wrote, there are three distinct political cultures present in the United States: the Moralist Political Culture, the Individualist Political Culture, and the Traditionalist Political Culture. To briefly review, the MPC originated in the New England area as immigrants from Scotland, Scandinavian countries, Holland, and British Canada settled the area. With them they brought their Congregational, Presbyterian, and Lutheran faiths. They believe in a marketplace form of government.
Much is dependent upon the good of the commonwealth. Programs are only imitated if the public desires and bureaucracy is generally viewed as positive. Politics are healthy and everyone i …