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Do we really need hate crimes laws? Aren’t MOST crimes “hate” crimes?

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Do we really need hate crimes laws?  Aren’t MOST crimes “hate” crimes?  – John Stossel on Twitter(6-6-2013)

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a ‘hate crime’ as:  any of various crimes (as assault or defacement of property) when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group (as one based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation).

The question raised by John Stossel in his statement on Twitter is this:  if someone who harbors an inner prejudice commits a murder, assault, robbery, vandalism or other crime against a particular individual based that person’s membership in a particular group, should there be addition punishment handed out to the criminal?   Is a crime any more heinous if there is a bigoted or prejudiced motivation behind the crime?

First, I would like to take a look at the second part of Mr. Stossel’s statement.  Most crimes are not motivated by hate or malice.  They are crimes of opportunity, need, or spontaneous acts of aggression such as the drug addict seeing an unattended purse; the domestic dispute or family argument which gets out of hand.

Hate crimes, on the other hand, are the result of a planned, organized attacks on individuals or institutions who represent the groups for whom the perpetrator has a developed dislike for such as the Neo-Nazi hatred of minorities and Jews; homophobes who hate and fear homosexual males(or males they perceive as being homosexuals base on stereotypes).

To answer the first part of Mr. Stossel’s statement, YES, we do need hate crimes laws.  It is an unfortunate reality of not only our society but even more so in other countries.  Almost weekly, on a frequency higher than in our country, we see stories in the media of ‘hate crime’ attacks in supposedly more sophisticated and cultured Europe.   Their societies which view themselves as far more enlightened and mature than our ‘Wild West’ America have found themselves having to deal with the questions of integration of minority groups which we have been working on over the past fifty years and which they are coming to grips with now for the first time.

The point that Mr. Stossel should have made about hate crimes here in the U.S. is that we have to make sure what we call ‘hate crimes’ are really that and not just run-of-the-mill urban violence and crime or publicity stunt or innocent act of self-defense.  We have seen the cases that have been exploited for ill by such men as the Rev. Al Sharpton(i.e. The Tawana Brawley case).   We have to wait for all the facts of cases to come out(i.e. The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case which is currently going to trial).

Do hate crimes exist? Yes!   Should there be added punishment beyond the simple underlying act of violence for those convicted of hate crimes?   Yes!    Does every crime committed against a particular member of a particular group whose history includes being the victims of hate crimes constitute a hate crime?  No!

The answer is to look at each case on its merits not to put it automatically in the category of a hate crime.  The answer is to act like responsible and thoughtful adults and not like immature children allowing ourselves to be herded like sheep by some self-aggrandizing, pompous shepherd, no matter who that shepherd is.


By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity   Jeffery Cassity is a mostly socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative Anglo male who is involved in his local Hispanic community as the widower of a 1st generation Mexican-American woman and his active, some would say hyperactive, membership in the local Council of the League of Latin American Citizens(LULAC)

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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