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Eric Manière

English 15 Section 18


Definition Essay


What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the phrase, “Hate crime?” Some say that they are crimes against people of a certain race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Targets of hate crimes have the right to be protected under US law. The first step to achieving protection for those who need it is to clearly define, “hate crime.” I believe that a hate crime is a crime committed against an identifiable group of people in order to promote fear in the minds.


Some of the most well-known hate crimes have happened within the past ten years. The brutal murder of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas by a group of men is a quintessential example of a hate crime. They had no other motive than to kill a black man. The three men were sent to jail, two of them were convicted to death by the lethal injection chair and the last received life in prison (Brabeck 2003). After entering a Texas prison, they all joined a notoriously racist white supremacist gang, thereby cementing their public perception of being racists. It is clear that this crime was motivated by prejudice and created a sense of fear in the black community.


Another hate crime committed in the recent past was the unwarranted murder of Matthew Shepard. He was a homosexual man living in Laramie, Wyoming and was taken advantage of by two men whose sole intention when meeting him was to rob and kill him. Matthew gained their trust, but then was taken advantage of and eventually lay mortally wounded, tied to a fence on the side of the road by his own shoelaces and left to die. This sparked a nationwide call to action for something to be done. It affected so many Americans that President Clinton tried to push a bill adding sexual orientation to the hate crimes law but it was defeated in the House of Representatives (Tweedie 2005). Work is being done so that groups that need special protection will get it under new laws.


The principles and motives behind hate crimes almost directly relate to terrorist attacks. In both instances, the motives behind the crimes are not particular to that certain individual. Both of these crimes are an attack against a particular group of people, making the crimes indiscriminant of towards the individual, but discriminatory towards the target group. Hate crimes may not be as politically centered as some terrorist attacks, but the two can be compared because of the values reasons for behind the crimes. Both can inflict fear into that one group’s minds and the crimes can be construed as being intimidating to a particular group (Wikipedia 2006). Hate crimes and terrorist attacks not only directly attack their victims, but they also could serve as a “message crime” to the people of the particular group. {Okay. Interesting comparison.}


Genocide can also be thought of as a hate crime. All genocides are attacks against a certain population because of either their beliefs or because they are the minority. A perfect example of genocidal behavior was recently in Rwanda. The majority of Rwanda contained the Hutu people while the government was run by the Tutsi people. The Hutu’s overthrew the government killing more than one million people. Of the ones killed were 50,000 of their own Hutus and 600,000 of the minority Tutsis (Lemarchand 2000).This shows that the killing spree in Rwanda was targeted to attack the Tutsis, but that there was also a significant amount of their own people being killed. This is comparable to the Nazi era in Europe. 6 million Jews were murdered while 5 million non-Jews died. The deaths of the people killed from these genocides were from pure hatred It is clear that there is a target group that the Nazis and Hutus were going after. This hatred towards a particular group and the tactics that the Nazis and Hutus used in order to instill fear within the individuals of that group is the epitome of a hate crime.


An opponent to hate crime legislation would say that hate crimes are a sort of double jeopardy. The criminals convicted of hate crimes believe that they are receiving too much great of a punishment because of their perceived intent in committing the crime. If someone were to argue this, they are would be completely wrong. The judicial system is one that is very subjective. The same principles would be used in prosecuting various degrees of murder cases as one would do in prosecuting a person who committed a hate crime versus another criminal offense of the type (Robinson 2001). The whole idea is intent and motive. Hate crimes are about prejudice as a motive (Jacobs 1997). A hate crime committed against a vulnerable person would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The offender shows total disregard for people with different beliefs and hateful intentions against the group as a whole. The people who commit hate crimes base their actions purely on prejudice and ignorant discriminations.


Unwarranted attacks against innocent groups of people should never be accepted. These people should never live in fear or worry at all if they are safe because they are humans just like everyone else. Steps can be taken against hate crimes as long as everyone realizes that they target an identifiable group of people for no other reason than their own prejudices.







{For the citations, journal articles should be in quotations, and the journals should be underlined (that is, the reverse of what appears below!)}


Brabeck, Kalina and Ainslie, Ricardo. Race Murder and Community Trauma. Journal for

the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society 8.1 (2003) <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_for_the_psychoanalysis_of_culture_and_society/v008/8.1ainslie.html>


Jacobs, James B., Potter, Kimberly A. Hate Crimes: A Critical Perspective. Crime and

Justice, Vol. 22. (1997), pp. 1-50. < http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0192- 3234%281997%2922%3C1%3AHCACP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-T>


Lemarchand, Rene. Hate Crimes. Transition - Issues 81 & 82 (Volume 9, Number 1 and

2), 2000, pp. 114-132. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/transition/v009/9.1lemarchand.html


Robinson, B.A. Arguments about hate crime legislation. Ontario Consultants on Religious

Tolerance. 1999. < http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_hat5.htm#procon>


Tweedie, Andrew. Historical Dates for the Foundation. 2005.



Wikipedia. Hate Crimes. February 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_crimes

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