Hate Crimes (3296 words) Essay

Hate CrimesHate Crimes
Many political scientists and researchers to a number of policy arenas in the United States ranging from corporal punishment to the quality of urban life have applied Daniel Elazar’s concept of political cultures. For a vast majority of these policy programs, a considerable correlation has been found to exist between the region examined and its approach to a specific policy. Elazar focused on three primary political cultures: the Moralist political culture (MPC), the Individual political culture (IPC), and the Traditional political culture (TPC). With more widespread media coverage, hate crimes have become more prevalent and more publicized than ever before. The Benjamin Smith shootings and the murder of Matthew Shepard are only two examples of recent crimes, which have been considered hate crimes that have promoted politicians and legislators to address this ever-growing problem and formulate a solution. This paper will attempt to define and uncover the history behind hate crime and the existing legislation. Furthermore, we will explain our own hypothesis then examine regional difference in the approaches to hate crimes and compare and contrast them to Daniel Elazar’s idea of political cultures. Our own hypothesis is that moralist cultures will have been the first to initiate hate crime policy and be most likely to have such policies followed by individualist, then traditionalist political cultures.

Hate Crime: Definition and History
Ever since the body of James Byrd was found in pieces on a road in east Texas, the authorities have been struggling to bring charges to reflect the horror of the crime. “Murder seems too pat: Mr. Byrd was chained to a truck and dragged for almost three miles”. In Texas, simple murder does not carry the death penalty. But Mr. Byrd was black, apparently murdered by racists, so there is a call for this killing to be labeled a “hate crime”, for which the punishment is death by lethal injection (5).

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Every day in the United States someone is attacked on the basis of his or her race, religious affiliation, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation among other things. These attacks often take the form of verbal harassment but some end in violent assault or death. Recent studies indicate a rise in the number of “bias” or “hate” crimes since 1985 (4). Congress has defined hate crimes as “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person” (1). Valerie Jenness and Ryken Grattet claim that “hate crime” have become a highly visible social problem that continues to garner national attention and elicit community activism (2). When, however, did the concept of “hate crimes” evolve? It was not until the late 1970’s that lawmakers in the United States began responding to a perceived escalation of racial, ethnic, religious, and other forms of intergroup conflict with a novel legal strategy: the criminalization of hate-motivated intimidation and violence. As a result of this strategy, most state legislatures passed at least one piece of “hate crime” legislation in the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s. Such legislation was justified by the harassment and intimidation, assault, and destruction of property that was found to be particularly dangerous and socially disruptive when motivated by bigotry (3).
The first hate crime law was passed in California in 1978, and since then hate crimes statues have taken many forms, including statues prescribing criminal penalties for civil rights violations, specific “ethnic intimidation” and “malicious harassment” statues, and provisions for enhanced penalties. These laws specify provision for race, religion, color, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability, creed, marital status, political affiliation, involvement in civil or human rights, and armed services personnel. Additionally, a few states require authorities to collect data on hate, or bias-motivated crimes, mandate the training of law enforcement personnel, prohibit paramilitary training, specify parental liability, and provide for victim compensation. Many states also have statutes that prohibit institutional vandalism and the desecration or defacement of religious objects, the interference with religious worship, cross-burning, the wearing of hoods or masks, the formation of secret societies, and the distribution of publications and advertisements designed to harass selected groups of individuals. This last group of laws dates back as early as the late nineteenth century in response to escalated Ku Klux Klan activity (3).
Who commits hate crime and who are they most likely to be directed toward? As with most crime, less violent hate crimes are committed more often than violent crimes but no matter the level of violence, all hate crimes are thought to negatively impact both the victim and society. Perpetrators of hate crimes are often characterized as young, white, lower-class males who commit the crimes for excitement or because of resentment of a minority group (4). 80% of hate crimes are directed at whites, blacks, Jews, and homosexuals, with offenses against blacks constituting the largest percentage of hate crimes. Not surprisingly, because minority groups are the main victims of hate crimes, they should have a vested interest in the passage of hate crime legislation. Minority groups may push for hate crime legislation simply as a reaction to the threat but they may also use the issue as a means to expand their political agenda (4).
The validity of hate crimes has been questioned. An article in The New Republic claims that “in the 1960’s, federal intervention was necessary in order to redress Southern states’ systematic and calculated indifference to crimes committed against blacks. The federal government had to step in because state courts refused to enforce their own laws and protect the lives and liberty of black citizens” (6). Addressing the Matthew Shepard case, the article felt that no constitutional violations were at issue and that it was simply an exercise in symbolic politics. Hate crime statues have been constitutionally challenged. In 1992 and 1993, the United States Supreme Court decided two cases addressing the constitutionality of statutes directed at bias-motivated intimidation and violence: R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul and Wisconsin v. Mitchell. These well-known cases have now substantially defined which hate crime statutes are, and which are not, acceptable under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. These cases challenged the notion of free speech. Based on these cases, the American Defamation League has been strongly urging states to adopt penalty-enhancement statues based on the League’s model (7).

Before we examine the individual states approach to hate crimes, it is important to look at the action taken by the federal government in response to this rising concern. The first major act directed specifically at hate crimes was The Hate Crime Statistic Act (28 U.S.C. 534). Enacted in 1990, the HCSA requires the Justice Department to acquire date on crimes which “manifest prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity” from law enforcement agencies across the country and to publish an annual summary of the findings. In the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Congress expanded coverage of the HCSA to require FBI reporting on crimes based on “disability”. The FBI’s more recent HCSA report, for 1996, documented 8,759 hate crimes reported by 11,355 agencies across the country. The FBI report indicated that about 63 percent of the reported hate crimes were race-based, with 14 percent committed against individuals on the basis of their religion, 11 percent on the basis of ethnicity, and 12 percent on the basis of sexual orientation (7).

The Clinton Administration has taken recent action regarding hate crimes as well. On November 10, 1997, the President convened the first-ever White House Conference on Hate Crimes. At the Conference, the President announced significant law enforcement and prevention initiatives to get tough on hate crimes. The Conference examined the positive actions that communities are taking and outline the steps that can be taken to prevent hate crimes. Some of these initiatives included: fighting hate crimes through tough law enforcement, prosecuting hate crimes aimed at our houses of worship, working with communities against hate, and understanding the problem of hate crime. As President Clinton stated in a radio address to the nation on June 7, 1997:
Hate crimes…leave deep scars not only on the victims, but also on our larger community. They weaken the sense that we are one people with common values and a common future. They tear us apart when we should be moving closer together. They are acts of violence against American itself…As part of our preparation for the new century, it is time for us to mount and all-out assault on hate crimes, to punish them swiftly and severely, and to do more to prevent them from happening in the first place. We must begin with a deeper understanding of the problem itself (8).

A Comparative Look at State Hate Crime Policy
We have examined the federal initiatives regarding hate crimes, but more importantly, how have individual states followed suit? Are there differences between states and if so, do those differences correlate to Daniel Elazar’s concept of political cultures? As Elazar wrote, there are three distinct political cultures present in the United States: the Moralist Political Culture, the Individualist Political Culture, and the Traditionalist Political Culture. To briefly review, the MPC originated in the New England area as immigrants from Scotland, Scandinavian countries, Holland, and British Canada settled the area. With them they brought their Congregational, Presbyterian, and Lutheran faiths. They believe in a marketplace form of government. Much is dependent upon the good of the commonwealth. Programs are only imitated if the public desires and bureaucracy is generally viewed as positive. Politics are healthy and everyone is encouraged to participate. The Individualist political culture originated in the Middle-Atlantic states by settlers from England, Germany, France, Belgium, and Ireland. The dominant religions included: Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, and Lutheran. The IPC is marketplace-oriented. The bureaucracy is viewed ambivalently and politics are seen as dirty. Professionals are expected to participate and parties act as business organizations. Competition is between parties, not issues as in the MPC. The IPC is oriented toward winning office for tangible rewards. Finally, the Traditionalist political culture originated in the Southern United States by settlers from French Canada. The Baptist faith was prevalent. The TPC, contrary to the MPC, viewed government as a means of maintaining the status quo; the primary goal of this culture. Bureaucracy was viewed negatively, politics were seen as privilege reserved for participation by elites and competition occurred between elites within a dominant party (9).

more diverse and thus have more issues to address while homogenous states maintain stable views. There is little movement up or down. As Elazar stated, the east and north region of the United States are moralist and consequently more liberal.
Prior to researching hate crime policy, we took into consideration the previous research and its correlation to Elazar’s political cultures. From this, we hypothesized that MPC regions of the United States would be most responsible for initiating anti-hate crime legislation and action and would, in general, be more likely to have hate crime policies than the IPC and TPC regions. We felt that there would a much greater tendency to follow suit in regard to federal initiatives. My reasoning for this was simply the commonwealth idea that influences the politics and way of life in the MPC. The MPC is a liberal area with the people’s interests at heart. The people are encouraged to participate and voice their concerns. It was the MPC that supported similar ideas during and after the Civil War. The MPC was a staunch supporter of civil rights and rights for women in addition to our actions in the Cold War. We felt that the IPC would, similar to many other policy arenas, come in second in regard to hate crime policy. The IPC would not be as likely as the MPC to have existing policies or to be an initiator of such policy, but still to a much greater extent than the TPC. Our reasoning for the agenda of this political culture, which many times has been considered a “gray area” is due to the use of the political system to further individual interests. This concept can be, at times, hard to apply because the IPC falls somewhere in the middle of the political cultures spectrum. Looking at statistics, compiled for 1999, alone can give quite an indication of the degree that states have prioritized hate crimes on their agendas. As previously mentioned, the first hate crime statute was enacted by California in 1978, so naturally hate crime policies are a product of the previous two decades. According to spastics compiled by the FBI and Anti-Defamation League, it is evident that every state in the union, with the exception of Wyoming, has enacted some type of hate crime provision. Even Wyoming’s, a combination MPC/IPC state, situation will be certain to change due to the recent events dealing with the Matthew Sheppard murder. These statistic provided for a variety of hate crime provisions including: bias-motivated violence and intimidation, civil action, criminal penalty, race religion and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, institutional vandalism, data collection, and training for law enforcement personnel. California, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Washington were among states that accounted for all of these provisions. According to Ira Sharkanksy, all of these are considered moralist states except for Illinois, which is a low-end individualist state, and Louisiana, a surprisingly traditionalistic state. States with a minimal number (5 or fewer) of the above listed provisions included: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Ohio. ON the other end of the spectrum, it is evident that most of these states have a long history of traditionalistic tendencies. Arizona and Ohio sit in the IPC gray area while Montana, a moralist state, is the lone exception. The case of Montana is interesting but we have to understand that Montana has a very low population and consequently is also a very homogenous state. The lack of diversity and the issues pertaining to it, do not necessitate a demand for hate crime policy. Those states not listed feature between five and nine of the currently existent hate crime provisions. A vast majority of these states are either moralist or individualistic. Nebraska (TPC), South Carolina (TPC), and the District of Columbia have been the most recent states to add hate crime provisions (13).
According to Ryken Grattet, Valerie Jenness, and Theodore Curry claim that the importance states give to different types of hate crime policies reflect the history of various post-1960s civil rights movements in the United States. Race, religion, color, and national origin reflect the early legal contest over minorities’ status and rights, “thus, there is a more developed history of invoking and then deploying the law to protect and enhance the status of blacks, Jews, and immigrants.” This is a very moralist perspective, hence mirroring the very sentiments that invoked change in those areas. The women’s movement, gay/lesbian movement, and disability movement reflect a “second wave” of civil right’s activism and “identity politics” and sexual orientation, gender, and disability have only recently been recognized by law, these statuses remain less embedded in hate crime law. They are also more heavily contested protected statuses. Once again, these statuses are most likely to be protected in MPC states followed by IPC then TPC. Eight states have even taken a comprehensive approach in which all crimes can be upgraded to the status of hate crimes. Vermont, another highly moralist state, passed such a law in 1989. Ryken, Jenness, and Curry also attribute the form and timing of adoption of state-level hate crime legislation to interstate institutionalization processes. They write that our even history analysis shows that the pressure to adopt a hate crime law builds as more and more states within the system enact laws. Internal characteristics, however, are also relevant to the spread of hate crime laws, as states with more innovative policy cultures pass laws earlier than do those with less innovative policy cultures. “Shaped by local conditions and broad system effects, the correlates of criminalization resemble those in many other diffusion contexts.” (3) This almost exactly mirrors the application of Elazar to explain policy differences among states.
Donald Haider-Markel writes that the media has been particularly important in triggering such action (i.e. Matthew Sheppard and Benjamin Smith), but the approaches the states have taken to deal with hate crimes has been highly indicative of their political culture. The media simply helps to make issues more salient and when salience is high, it is more likely that issues will gain priority on the political agenda. Implementation of social regulatory policy often depends on the voluntary compliance of state and local officials. Federal hate crime policy clearly fits this description. Given the voluntary nature of implementing federal social regulatory policy, therefore, local political conditions should largely determine implementation effort. Furthermore, Haider-Markel claims that social-regulatory policy is thought to arise out of factors in the political environment including the strength of the interest groups, party competition, issue salience, and bureaucratic strength (4). According to Elazar, the MPC favors a strong bureaucracy and is concerned with the issues that will especially affect the people. Haider-Markel claims that because hate crime policies are considered social regulatory policy, they seek to change behavior that is linked to a “normative debate concerning the morality of the individual actions and the subsequent consequences of those actions on the rest of society. Hate crimes are seen as damaging the “community” as well as the individual. “Social regulatory policies may largely arise out of political demands of citizens and interest groups, the motivations of politicians, and bureaucratic structure and behavior”. Again, this describes the political foundations of the MPC exactly. On the other hand we have the TPC which views bureaucracy negatively and rarely focuses on issues. These claims further fortify the correlation between Elazar’s political cultures and hate crime policy in the United States. Implementation of hate crime policy was seen much earlier and to a greater extent in moralist regions as opposed to later and less-inclusive implementation efforts that have evolved in traditional areas (4).

In evaluating hate crime policies across all 50 states, it has become clearly evident that political culture makes a difference in what individual states choose to prioritize and how they go about taking action on such issues as bias-motivated behavior. In reviewing recent statistics, Daniel Elazar’s work on political culture, in addition to several other authors who have undertaken analyses of hate crime policy in the United States, clear patterns have emerged that, with a few minor exceptions, fall into line with the MPC, IPC, and TPC tendencies as proposed by Elazar. The long-standing political cultures have affected policy-making ever since our country was founded and continue to do so even today. To conclude, my hypotheses, which were based on the materials with which we have been presented throug0out the course, were proven correct. State adopting hate crime policies the earliest and states most likely to have hate crime policies or to initiate them are considered moralist, followed by individual states who fall somewhere in between MPC and TPC, then traditional, who are least likely to place as much emphasis on adopting such policies.

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