Hate Crimes in America

As a country America is the definition of a melting pot, but unfortunately there are some groups and individuals who are not tolerant of other people who are different than them or hold opposite beliefs. This intolerance and the negative emotions associated with it can manifest in hate crimes.

Definition of a Hate Crime

A hate crime is defined as "crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity." When a person is targeted as the victim of a hate crime, it is due to one of these factors and does not involve any instigation.

Hate Groups in America

While some people who commit hate crimes are not overt in making their beliefs known, there are hundreds of groups and organizations that proudly and publicly announce their prejudice and intolerant views. As of 2014, there were 784 such groups located across the United States. While this is an alarmingly large number, the good news is that the number of public hate groups is declining—in 2011 there was record of 1,018 such groups.

Hate groups encompass many different agendas and messages. Some hate groups hold anti-African American sentiments, while others identify as right wing Christians, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, or Racist Skinheads. Over the past several years there has been a marked increase in anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT groups.
Being a member of a hate group is not illegal, but the messages that these groups spread can be very toxic. Hate group members who have children are more likely to teach the next generation to embrace feelings of hate, intolerance, and prejudice, which can contribute to the number of hate crimes committed.

Current Hate Crime Statistics

The incidence of hate crimes is tracked by the FBI in accordance with the Hate Crime Statistics Act. As of 2013 (most current report available), there were 5,928 hate crimes recorded, with 7,242 victims. The data collected in 2013 shows a decrease in hate crimes from the previous year, where 6,573 incidents were recorded.
Unfortunately, these statistics can be deceiving. In order for a person to be charged with a hate crime law enforcement and the court system must be able to prove that the crime was motivated by prejudice based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender or gender identification, sexual orientation, or disability. It is possible that many crimes can be classified as hate crimes, but there is insufficient evidence for the charge.

Types of Hate Crimes by the Numbers

  • Race: Historically, the majority of hate crimes have been racially motivated. The most recent data available shows that 48.5% of hate crimes had to do with racial prejudices or racist views. African Americans are victims of hate crimes at a higher rate than whites or other races - in 2013 66.4% of racially motivated hate crimes involved black victims. Incidents of racial hate crimes have fallen since 1995, when race was involved in approximately 60% of hate crimes.
  • Religion: In America, Jews are targeted for hate crimes at a higher rate than any other religion. From 2001 to 2012 66% of religiously motivated hate crimes were committed against Jews. The incidence of hate crimes against Muslims is increasing at a rapid rate. Between 1995 and 2000 only 2.0% of victims of hate crimes due to religious bias were Muslim, but from 2001 to 2012 that number increased to 12.1%.
  • Sexual Orientation: In 2013, 20.8% of recorded hate crimes were motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation. Gay males made up 60.6% of those victimized due to a bias against sexual orientation.
  • Other: 11.1% of hate crimes recorded in 2013 were based on an ethnic bias. Gender and gender identity accounted for 0.8% of hate crimes, and 1.4% were committed due to a disability bias.

Hate Crime Prevention

Unfortunately, hate, racism, intolerance, and prejudice is a societal problem that is difficult to solve. The government and non-profit groups are working together to reduce hate crimes in our country by raising awareness and educating people about what constitutes a hate crime. Schools and educators play an important role in teaching children and teens to be accepting and tolerant of others who may be different than them. Most importantly, hate crime prevention starts at home—it is important for parents to raise their children to be law abiding citizens and understand that no one should ever be hated or targeted for a crime due to race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, ethnicity, or for having a disability.