Hate Crimes Essay
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 .