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Hate Crimes in America
Hate burns through the veins of America. The flames spread from life to life, leaving no corner untouched. Blood rushes through the flesh, trying to prove that there is still hope for this nation. America’s heart beats ferociously, attempting to establish a steady pulse of life. Is there a pulse? Or is America being burned from within by the injustice that we, as American citizens, are creating with a single spark? Each spark creates a livid, roaring fire.
Who hasn’t been scorched by hatred or at least felt the heat of the flames arising? Like a charred piece of meat, America is irreversibly changed on a molecular level by the flames of hate rapidly spreading through our society. America, now blackened with biases, prejudices, and hate, has no chance of escape. Or does it? The sole way to embed acceptance into America is to scrape off the scorched surface for a new, underlying beginning. First, we have to squelch the flames. Who will be pumping the kerosene and who will be spraying the water? Every citizen will be burned by hatred if we do not allow the water to flow. Hatred must be both extinguished and prevented because it only ever results in negative effects on society out of invalid reasoning.
A hate crime as defined by the FBI is “…a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.” The victims typically belong in a category of society in which the violator fears, lacks knowledge of, or feels that particular group violates their own personal opinions. The violator could be biased toward the victim’s religion, race, ethnicity, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. If someone commits a crime against you, it is not considered a hate crime unless the perpetrator’s motive was based against generalizable characteristics such a physical appearance. Even if you have not experienced hate directly, it is clearly on the rise in our country. According to CNN, since 2014, the total number of hate groups has risen 17% to now over 900 hate groups in the United States alone. Hate crimes are most likely to occur during a period of social or political change or when offenders feels their way-of-life and demographics are threatened. Each community through which hate blazes is burned and forever scarred. This is happening in our country. Are we watching the fire spread?
The impact of hate goes beyond simple statistics. We truly only see what hate does through the consequences of actions. After publically denouncing women, the disabled, Muslims, and the LGBTQ+ community, President Donald Trump was elected in 2016. After a night club shooting in Orlando, forty-nine innocent people lost their lives and another fifty-eight were wounded. After worshiping at a Virginia mosque, a seventeen year old Muslim girl died from assault. While protesting in Charlottesville, a young woman was killed. In each situation, the devastating impact on individuals is obvious. However, like a pebble in a pond, the disturbance does not stay where the pebble was thrown. It ripples outward to the victim’s friends, family, through communities, and occasionally around the globe.
According to the American Psychology Association, statistics have shown that victims of hate crimes are more likely to develop a physiological distress than victims of other violent crimes. Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic distress, anger, and safety concerns are common results of hate crimes. Beyond these individual effects, hate alters the psyche of the target group and other societal bystanders. Fear erupts when a person who shares a common interest with a group is assaulted or attacked. As a whole, the people in the same demographic as the victim are sent a loud psychological message that screams they are unwelcome and unsafe. Calli, a tenth grader who lives in Selinsgrove, PA confirms this as well. She voices that “Hate crimes make people afraid. Speaking as a transgender person, many transgender people are afraid to be themselves and have an extreme desire to blend into society which makes it much harder to advocate for rights of marginalized groups. People are afraid if they speak up they’ll be a victim of hate crimes themselves.” For the sake of equality hate must be abolished. Hate crimes have the potential to also break the chains of relationships in a particular community. As terror spreads, people turn on each other. The extent of damage inflicted by hate crimes is difficult to measure, but is likely to be more profound than most people realize. Is hate worth the consequences?
Though it is important to study and understand the consequences of hate crimes, it is equally essential to examine the specific reasons they are committed. Understanding the psychology of the perpetrator and noting why they commit the crime may be the key to combating these atrocities. When the nation is educated as a whole on motives, we will have a stronger chance of conquering hate. According to the National Institute of Justice, there are four main categories the attacker uses to justify his or her actions, including thrill-seeking, defensive, retaliatory, and mission offenders. These reasons may be the tip of motivation and bias however, they don’t justify the immature level at which these people are thinking.
Immaturity can also lead to pursuing thrill without consideration of its consequences. The National Institute of Justice recorded that sixty-six percent of hate crimes are committed and justified with thrill. A thrill hate crime could range from drunk people vandalizing a mosque, such as the Murfreesboro, Tennessee crime this past July, or teenagers harassing a peer just out of boredom. Thrill crimes are committed “just for the fun of it” every day in our country. Although the Las Vegas massacre earlier this month appears to be a thrill crime, it may not necessarily be a hate crime if no other motive is identified. The victim or victims of thrill hate crimes are considered an easy-target just because they have a different background in religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality than the person who committed the crime.
Another motive of hate crimes is related to an increase of immigrant population. According to CNN, you and many American citizens may feel threatened that “your” country is being taken away from you. You may even feel as if your space is being invaded, your job, your freedom, your religion, your life. As an attempt to defend and protect, an attacker feeling this way will strategically plan out a crime to target a group in which they fear. They believe that society supports them, however they are afraid to act. “Defenders” justify the crime by bringing up the fact that they “helped” the country from losing its identity. Quite the contrary from what these attackers want, committing a hate crime out of bias or fear that the country will be harmed, actually causes flames to burn the society more quickly.
While faced with difficult situations such as immigration, it is easy to blame a group as a whole and slap on a flashy red banner with a stereotype written boldly on it. Since ancient times, civilizations have blamed each other for the negative actions taking place in the society. Starting in 1692, witchcraft was to blame for the destructive events in America. People were burned for actions that they did not commit. Although witch trials are different from hate crimes, the same idea of blame is backing it up. Retaliatory hate crimes are seen committed against the group in which the root of the issue occurred. The victim may not have had any part in the destructive idea, but are blamed. A modern example of retaliatory hate crimes aroused on September 9, 2001. Since the 9/11 attacks, according to CNN, hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs peaked at a one thousand six-hundred percent increase. The attackers of these crimes justify themselves with the “getting even” aspect.
Potentially, the most dangerous hate crimes are justified with a religious cause. These people will do anything to have an entire population destroyed. They stop at no measure. The goal is to start a war between two opposing sides. There are blurred lines between the definition of a mission offender hate crime and terrorism. However, isn’t terrorism rooted in hate?
Each of the four categories of hate crimes can be justified with personal motivation. Bias, motivation, and justification mean nothing. There is no justification for hate. Harassing another human being because of a trait that they have no control over is unacceptable. The hate of flames being fueled by injustice has no place in America.
To ensure that hate doesn’t devour the country in flames, we as American citizens must put the flames out. Where do we start? We start with the basic necessity of all of human existence, education. If the entire population is educated on what people can or cannot control, then that red label with “stereotype” written boldly across it will be shredded. With stereotypes and biases disintegrated, people will stop focusing on what makes us different, but instead on that in which makes us similar. We must abolish hate. We must be educated.
After we educate ourselves, we must not lose the knowledge that seeped into society’s brain. To complete this task, every American should be aware of hate. If we are aware, then we can extinguish the fire of hate before it outstretches past the point of no return.
Fire is spreading. If we stand on the side and watch it burn through society, eventually we will all burn as well. When will the hate end? Will it end in our lifetime? Will it end in one million years? Everyday people are being torn down and beaten. Why are we watching? Do we want to be known as the society who stands and watches? If not, we must make a change.