Teaching and Learning Guide for: Isn’t Every Crime a Hate Crime? The Case for Hate Crime Laws
Article first published online: 2 MAY 2011
© 2011 The Author. Sociology Compass © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 5, Issue 5, pages 392–394, May 2011
How to Cite
Blazak, R. (2011), Teaching and Learning Guide for: Isn’t Every Crime a Hate Crime? The Case for Hate Crime Laws. Sociology Compass, 5: 392–394. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2011.00370.x
- Issue published online: 2 MAY 2011
- Article first published online: 2 MAY 2011
This guide accompanies the following article: ‘Isn’t Every Crime a Hate Crime? The Case for Hate Crime Laws’, Sociology Compass 5/4 (2011): 244–255, 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2011.00364.x.
Have you ever heard someone say, ‘Isn’t every crime a “hate crime”?’ The process to create hate crime laws in the United States has wrestled with the core issues of freedom of speech and greater harm to society. It is important to look at the evolution of bias crime laws, culminating with President Obama’s signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. The constitutionality of the laws is still a subject of debate. Four elements of hate crime laws are criminality, intent, perception, and protected statuses. The logic of hate crime laws is based on the argument that hate crimes are a form of terrorism, designed to intimidate large groups of people. Police are often the ones who are responsible for making this determination. Once hate crimes have been defined, how should social scientists study them?
In the last 15 years, sociologists and criminologists have done a lot of work to understand the causes of hate crimes as well as issues associated with hate crime laws. The classic in the field is Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed by Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt (Westview Press, 2001). It provides a great overview of the types of hate crimes, the role hate groups play, and how police respond to such acts.
Several recent books to a wonderful job of explaining why people commit hate crimes and how these crimes impact their victims. In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes by Barbara Perry (Routledge, 2001) should be at the top of the required reading list. Why We Hate by Jack Levin and Gordana Rabrenovic (Prometheus Books, 2005) also is very enlightening. Home-Grown Hate: Gender and Organized Racism is a collection of readings by Abby L. Ferber (Routledge, 2003) that explores the role gender plays in hate crimes and hate groups.
For those who are interested in the more personal stories of those involved in the world of hate, Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story as Told to Jody M. Roy, Ph.D. (Hawthorne Books, 2010) is riveting reading. Meeink was one of the most notorious Nazi skinheads on the east coast in the 1990s. Katleen Blee interviewed female members of the white supremacist world for her book, Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement (University of California Press, 2002). Raphael S. Ezekiel interviewed leaders of the racist movement for his book, The Racist Mind (Penguin, 1996). Each of these three books gives you a chance to read hate mongers own accounts of why they believe what they believe.
If you are interested in the anatomy of a hate crime, Elinor Langer’s A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America (Picador, 2004) is the gripping exploration of a brutal murder in Portland, Oregon by skinheads.
Finally, if you are interested in the legal debates surrounding hate crimes, pick up a copy of Brian Levin’s recent edited volume, Understanding and Defining Hate Crimes (Preager, 2009). Levin is the attorney who argued the constitutionality of hate crime laws before the Supreme Court.
There are a number of online sources for students interested in hate crimes and the debate about hate crime laws. The first source is the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (discussed in the article). Here you can get the latest data about hate crimes that have been reported to and by the police. The FBI’s crime data website is at: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr.
Another well-know website belongs to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC is a civil rights group that has helped track hate groups. It’s website has a ‘hate group map’, so you can see which hate groups are active in your state. The SPLC has also helped to raise the awareness of the importance of hate crime laws and the limitation of the data that is reported to the FBI. Their web address is: http://splcenter.org/.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is the Jewish civil rights group who helped create the first hate crime legislation in the 1980s. Their website has a handy map for finding the specific hate crime laws (and what they cover) for each state. The ADL website also has a database for hate symbols and what they mean, useful for police, teachers, and students. The ADL website is at: http://adl.org/combating_hate/.
Finally, the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism has a website that serves as a wonderful portal to other online resources, including academic research and community based anti-hate groups. The Center is headed by Dr Brian Levin, one of the leading experts on the legal aspects of hate crime laws. Their web address is: http://hatemonitor.csusb.edu/.
There are now numerous college courses taught on the topic of hate crimes (as well as courses for law enforcement on the subject). Here is an outline of my 10-week hate crime course at Portland State University. The class explores the origins of hate crime laws, hate groups, and the philosophy of hate itself. It also challenges students to explore their own biases.
|1||Defining and measuring hate crimes|
|‘How do we know?’|
|2||Hate crimes as a social problem|
|‘From Columbus to McVeigh’|
|3||How we study hate crimes|
|‘Qualitative and quantitative research’|
|4||Gay-bashing as a social problem|
|‘Matthew Sheppard: Man of the Year?’|
|5||Hate group ideology 1: status|
|‘White men built this country... ’|
|6||Hate group ideology 2: holy war|
|‘The Turner Diaries and NW Imperative’|
|7||Recruitment and the Internet|
|‘Looking for a few pissed off kids’|
|8||Community responses to hate crimes|
|‘The grass-roots tolerance movement’|
|9||Institutional responses to hate crimes|
|‘Hate crime laws and hate-free police?’|
|10||The Personal Response to Hate|
|‘Strategies for stopping hate in our lives’|