Hate Crimes Today: An Age Old Foe in Modern Dress
Hate crimes--violent acts against people, property, or organizations because of the group to which they belong or identify with--are a tragic part of American history. However, it wasn't until early in this decade that the federal government began to collect data on how many and what kind of hate crimes are being committed, and by whom. Thus, the statistical history on hate crimes is meager. Psychological studies are also fairly new. Nevertheless, scientific research is beginning to yield some good perspectives on the general nature of crimes committed because of real or perceived differences in race, religion, ethnicity or national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. According to the FBI, about 30% of hate crimes in 1996, the most recent year for which figures are available, were crimes against property. They involved robbing, vandalizing, destroying, stealing, or setting fire to vehicles, homes, stores, or places of worship. About 70% involve an attach against a person. The offense can range from simple assault (i.e., no weapon is involved) to aggravated assault, rape, and murder. This kind of attack takes place on two levels; not only is it an attack on one's physical self, but it is also an attack on one's very identity.