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Hate Crime: History and Prevalence in the US

The American Psychological Association defines hate crime as a legal offense against an individual or property instigated in whole or part by the bias of the offender against the minority. The victims may be targeted due to disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity or gender. Hate purveyors use arson, explosives, weapons, physical violence, vandalism and verbal threats to instill fear in their victims causing them to feel vulnerable to other attacks. Thus, such forms fueled by hate have deep impact on the victims as it not only attacks the person physically but also their identity. Noteworthy, the perpetrators may be a well-organized group using different channels especially the social media. Although hate crime is now recognized constitutionally, there are still areas of contention hence the need for more research.

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Development of Hate Crime in the United States

The United States was the first country globally to enact laws on hate crime; thus, most research studies on hate crime have been done and published in that country. Regarding the origin, some scholars believe that the era of reconstruction in which multiple laws on civil rights were being enacted (Naidoo & Karels, 2016). There are also academicians who perceive that the hate crimes came to the limelight during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s which extended to various demonstrations for women and gay rights.

The are two distinct models that are often used in the United States to explain hate crime: the racial-animus and the discriminatory selection policy. In the former, the ethnic animus of the perpetrator is the reason for their victimizing another person (Naidoo & Karels, 2016). The latter proposes that the discriminatory selection of the perpetrator is the basis for the hate. Despite these models, there are still controversies surrounding hate crime in that even within the United States, the definition differs from state to state.

Additionally, there are no consensus as to the categories of victims that need to be included within the law of hate crime. In some cases, the politicians who are likely to support the minority groups are the ones who inspire hate crimes. Thus, hate crimes have also been accused of not being fair and constitutionally binding when imposing penalties on the perpetrators. Moreover, contention exists as to ways of establishing the motive of the perpetrator. The basis for such criticism is well understood in light of the First Amendment Act of the US Constitution. Particularly, this law protects people’s freedom to believe and express themselves freely.

Intensification of Hate

Antecedents demands that the role of the past is considered in current hating. As such, there are personal and collective theories that instigate negative attitudes towards others. For example, reason fiction stories that identify a certain religious group as criminals may cause a person to have negative attitude towards the group. However, for a hate crime occur when such antecedences have been acted upon. First, the cognition makes a person to have categorical stereotypes and social representations which provides outgroup and in group dynamics. The hate towards people who are perceived as the other is intensified at this point.

Next, a person develops hateful emotions such as anger, frustrations, fear, disgust, powerlessness and envy towards the other. The labeling is at this point eliciting negative belief system on the potential perpetrator. Next, there is a moral breakdown in which the person or a group of people disregard societal and cultural norms and virtues in their way of perceiving the other person. Last but not least, when the person finds an opportunity, they may act on their hate through verbal abuse, vandalism, gestures or other behaviors that express their hate on others. In sum, hate crime develops over time as opposed to simply occurring suddenly.

Prevalence of Hate Crime in United States

Hate crimes are on the increase because immigration has made people from different backgrounds to coexists within the same locality causing some power and identity wrangles. Despite the fact that most hate crimes are rarely reported the federal bureau of investigation (FBI) reported 7,145 cases of hate crime in 2017 (Puente, 2017). From the available data, 58.1% of the hostility is due to race or ethnicity, 22% religion, 15.9% sexual orientation, 6% gender identity and 1.6% disability (Puente, 2017). In the United States, most of the people who experience hate speech are either Jews, LGBTQ community or African Americans.

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Procedural Implications for Prosecuting Hate Crime

For successful prosecution to occur, it is important that members of the national prosecuting authority adequately prepare a case. Moreover, the presentation should be tied to a specific substantive law that address the law (Naidoo & Karels, 2016). The consecutive procedures then involve receipt of the complaint, followed by establishment and proving of bias, prosecution in the court of law, and finally sentencing. At each of the stages there are some challenges and controversies which the person must endear to overcome (Naidoo & Karels, 2016). The victims need for justice may also be suppressed when the victim is dismissed or there is failure to provide adequate punishment to the perpetrator.


The concept of hate crime is a relatively new phenomena both among scholars and legal judicial institutions. As such, there are significant controversies as to how to categorize and litigate hate crimes. Nonetheless, there is consensus as to such crimes being fueled by prejudices mostly against the minority populations. Notably, the United States was the first to legislate laws on hate crime but the definition differs from state to state. It is therefore crucial for mor research to be done to clarify hate crim, the procedure for prosecuting offenders and standardize the punishment.


Puente A. (2017). The psychology of hate crimes. American Psychological Association. Web.

Naidoo, K., & Karels, M. G. (2016). Prosecuting “hate”: An overview of problem areas relating to hate crimes and challenges to criminal litigation. Journal for Juridical Science, 41(1), 65-82. Web.

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