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Hate Violence and Hate Crimes
by Uzma Mazhar

Hate violence is any act of intimidation, harassment, physical force or threat of physical force directed against any person, or family, or their property or advocate, motivated either in whole or in part by hostility to their real or perceived race, ethnic background, religious belief, sex, age, disability, or sexual orientation, with the intention of causing fear or intimidation, or to deter the free exercise or enjoyment of any rights or privileges secured by the law.

When hate violence is punishable under a criminal statute it is a hate crime.  

At its most fundamental level, hate violence is an aggressive expression of hatred against another person or group of people simply because of who and what they are.  But an act does not have to be criminal to be an act of hate; the use of an epithet with the intent to cause fear is an expression of hate regardless of whether or not it is a crime.  

There are many excuses and explanations of hate violence, but in the end the root cause is  fear.  This fear is mostly due to ignorance: fear of the unknown, fear of the "other," fear of perceived enemies. These fears have the potential to generate violence in situations of perceived threat.

In comparing ourselves to others, we tend to label others as good if they have similar attributes and react positively to them. Some we label as "bad" and react negatively.  In times of insecurity and fear, it does not take much for a stressed person to think "that person is bad because they are different from me" and "those people caused all my problems, and I'm going to do something about it" looking for a scapegoat.

Most young people value the opinions of their peers highly.  Many young people who  become involved in hate violence do so because their friends were doing it or because they wanted to belong to a group -- any group.  Joining a racist gang -- or any other gang -- fulfills the need to belong.  Lack of positive direction and role models, untamed emotions, limited depth of experience and understanding, a sense of invincibility and rebelliousness are some factors that make the situation worse. 

Families are very influential in shaping a young person's mind and attitudes.  Lack of parental guidance, lack of love and forgivingness toward each other, lack of tolerance and patience toward family members, lack of selflessness in family life eventually plays out in the social context.  Just like charity begins at home, hate and prejudice begins at home.  If one has grown up in a cruel, harsh and critical environment they expect that from the world and defensively lash out... hitting before they get hurt.

Communities and nations act extremely irresponsibly by not taking action to ensure justice.  All adults are responsible for their actions.  We cannot afford to ignore the impact of our own actions on others.  We cannot continue to make excuses for our own selfishness and greed.  Every single individual, every business and every organization has at some time or the other stopped taking responsibility for their own actions, they have chosen to overlook the well being of others for their own benefit.  

The media plays a key role in shaping attitudes among young people.  The portrayals of various types of people on the programs they watch inevitably shapes their attitudes about those groups. 

Political and religious leaders around the world fan the flames of bigotry in order to advance their own interests and careers.  They instigate fear and insecurity, using the general populace as pawns, with very little regard to the impact this hatred has in the long run.  They actively are teaching hatred and intolerance.

And of course none of us are willing to see further than our own nose... deep down we know what we are doing and we continue avoiding because we can't tolerate seeing our own ugly reality.

When addressing hate violence we cannot afford to focus our efforts on responding directly to specific sources of negative messages. To eradicate this problem we need to educate ourselves, our communities, nation and world.  We have to focus most of our efforts on the broader goal of inoculating the next generation so that they can reject those who try to infect them with hatred for others.

[reproduced with permission from]

Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:07:57 AM

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