The FAQs: What You Should Know About Hate Crimes
The FAQs: What You Should Know About Hate Crimes

What just happened?

A man who allegedly opened fire at a Kroger grocery store in October, killing two people, is now facing hate crime charges. A grand jury returned hate crime charges against Gregory Bush, 51, who allegedly shot and killed a black man and woman at the store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

Police said that just prior to the killings at the Kroger store, Bush was spotted on security footage outside the First Baptist Church, a historically black church in Jeffersontown. After he was unable to get inside, he allegedly went to the Kroger store and opened fire, ABC News says. According to authorities, Bush walked by dozens of white shoppers before shooting Maurice Stallard, a 69-year-old retiree, in the back of the head. He then walked outside and did the same to Vickie Lee Jones, a 67-year-old black woman.

Also, on Tuesday the FBI released its Hate Crime Statistics report. The report showed a nearly 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes and a 16 percent rise in hate crimes against African Americans.

What constitutes a hate crime?

A hate crime is a traditional criminal offense, such as murder, arson, or vandalism, with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime 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.” As the FBI notes, hate itself is not a crime, and not all actions that include elements of hate (such as hateful speech) are criminal offenses.

When did the concept of hate crimes originate in the United States?

According to the National Institute for Justice, the term “hate crime” was coined in the 1980s by journalists and policy advocates who were attempting to describe a series of incidents directed at Jews, Asians, and African Americans.

Although the term wasn’t coined until the 1980s, federal involvement in hate crimes began during World War I and expanded after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After the killing of three civil-rights workers in 1964 (see: 9 Things You Should Know About the ‘Mississippi Burning’ Murders), the federal government began taking the position that protection of civil rights is a federal function, and not just a local one.

What are the hate crimes laws in the United States?

There are five primary federal laws related to hate crimes:

18 U.S. Code § 241 – Conspiracy against rights – This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory, or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or the laws of the U.S.

18 U.S.C. § 245 – Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights – This statute makes it a crime to use, or threaten to use force to willfully interfere with any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin and because the person is participating in a federally protected activity, such as public education, employment, jury service, travel, or the enjoyment of public accommodations, or helping another person to do so.

18 U.S. Code § 247 – Damage to religious property; obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs – This statute prohibits the intentional defacement, damage, or destruction of religious real property because of the religious nature of the property, where the crime affects interstate or foreign commerce, or because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of the people associated with the property. The statute also criminalizes the intentional obstruction by force, or threat of force of any person in the enjoyment of that person’s free exercise of religious beliefs.

42 U.S.C. § 3631 – Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing – This statute makes it a crime to use, or threaten to use force to interfere with housing rights because of the victim’s race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.

18 U.S. Code § 249 – The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 – The Shepard Byrd Act makes it a federal crime to willfully cause bodily injury, or attempt to do so using a dangerous weapon, because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin. The Act also extends federal hate crime prohibitions to crimes committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person, only where the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction. The Shepard-Byrd Act is the first statute allowing federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Additionally, all but five states (Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming) have hate crimes laws.

How many hate crimes are committed each year?

Hate crimes data is reported by various law enforcement agencies and collected by the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. For each offense type reported, law enforcement must indicate at least one bias motivation. A single-bias incident is defined as an incident in which one or more offense types are motivated by the same bias. A multiple-bias incident is defined as an incident in which one or more offense types are motivated by two or more biases. 

In 2017, 7,175 hate crime incidents involving 8,437 offenses were reported. There were 7,106 single-bias incidents that involved 8,126 offenses, 8,493 victims, and 6,307 known offenders. The 69 multiple-bias incidents reported in 2017 involved 311 offenses, 335 victims, and 63 known offenders.

How many hate crimes were motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry bias?

In 2017, law enforcement agencies reported that 4,832 single-bias hate crime offenses were motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry. Of these offenses:

  • 48.8 percent were motivated by anti-Black or African American bias.
  • 17.5 percent stemmed from anti-white bias.
  • 10.9 percent were classified as anti-Hispanic or Latino bias.
  • 5.8 percent were motivated by anti-American Indian or Alaska Native bias.
  • 4.4 percent were a result of bias against groups of individuals consisting of more than one race (anti-multiple races, group).
  • 3.1 percent resulted from anti-Asian bias.
  • 2.6 percent were classified as anti-Arab bias.
  • 0.4 percent (17 offenses) were motivated by bias of anti-Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
  • 6.5 percent were the result of an anti-other race/ethnicity/ancestry bias.

How many hate crimes were motivated by sexual orientation/gender/gender identity/disability bias?

In 2017, law enforcement agencies reported 1,303 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias, 131 offenses were a result of gender-identity bias, 53 offenses were a result of gender bias, 93 offenses were classified as anti-mental disability bias, and 35 offenses were reported as anti-physical disability.

How many hate crimes were motivated by religious bias?

Hate crimes motivated by religious bias accounted for 1,679 offenses reported by law enforcement. A breakdown of the bias motivation of religious-biased offenses showed:

  • 58.1 percent were anti-Jewish.
  • 18.7 percent were anti-Islamic (Muslim).
  • 4.5 percent were anti-Catholic.
  • 3.2 percent were anti-multiple religions, group.
  • 2.4 percent were anti-Protestant.
  • 1.8 percent were anti-other Christian.
  • 1.4 percent were anti-Sikh.
  • 1.4 percent were anti-Eastern Orthodox (Russian, Greek, Other).
  • 0.9 percent (15 offenses) were anti-Mormon
  • 0.9 percent (15 offenses) were anti-Hindu.
  • 0.8 percent (13 offenses) were anti-Jehovah’s Witness.
  • 0.5 percent (9 offenses) was anti-Buddhist.
  • 0.5 percent (8 offenses) were anti-Atheism/Agnosticism/etc.
  • 4.9 percent were anti-other (unspecified) religion.

The FAQs: What You Should Know About Hate Crimes

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