September 25, 2010
As we focus on crimes, we start to classify them into categories, whether they are drug crimes, crimes of passion or even an accidental crime. One crime we have definitely classified is a hate crime. Hate crimes have been happening ever since we can remember. One thing that we need to really see is whether a hate crime is really a crime of hate or a crime of belief.
The word “hate crime” did not exist until the mid 1980’s. A hate crime can be defined as a crime committed towards someone because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or color. Hate crimes can also be called a bias crime and is becoming a routine category. The people for first coming up with the word “hate crime” came from a bill that was put together by a few House of Representatives. Representative John Conyers, Barbara Kennelly and Mario Biaggi titled the bill, “Hate Crime Statistics Act,” which was put together to enforce the Department of Justice to collect and publish all crimes motivated by racial, religious or ethnic prejudice. Ever since the term came out, it was started to appear everywhere. After 1985, newspapers and magazines began publishing hate crimes reported throughout the United States. U.S. News and World Report, was the first major magazine to publish an article regarding hate crimes, which questioned a law in the District of Columbia which enhanced the punishment due to hate.
A hate crime might not always be about hate but being prejudice. Although, there are several different definitions for prejudice, we can all agree that we are all prejudice in some way. It doesn’t always have to be about some ones race, religion, color, or gender. We can be prejudice for food, weather, locations, etc. and not necessarily someone in particular. Professor Abraham Kaplan, a professor of philosophy has also explained that prejudice is a learning behavior, something that is taught to us by our parents or grandparents.
One of the worst hate crimes in American history was the murder of Emmet Till. He was a 14 year old boy from Chicago, Illinois. He was murdered in Money, Mississippi because he whistled at a white woman. His body was found three days later. He has been beaten, one eye was gouged out, and a hole above his temple. He also had a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with a barb wire. The two suspects, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were acquitted by a jury of 12 white males. At his funeral service, Emmet Till’s mothers decided to have an open casket service to show the world the racism did to his son. The two suspects later confessed to the crime, but where never prosecuted due to double jeopardy. The acquittal outraged people throughout Europe and the US. This is energized the Civil Rights Movement. (Brooks)
Another crime that made a big impact in the United States was that of Matthew Shepard. Matthew Sheppard was a 21 year old college student from Casper, Wyoming where he attended the University of Wyoming. On October 7, 1998, he met Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney at a lounge. Russell and Aaron offered Matthew a ride in their car. After Matthew had told the two men that he was gay, the two men beat him, tortured him and tied him to a fence in a rural area. Matthew was found 18 hours later by a cyclist, who first thought he was a scarecrow. By the time that Matthew was found, he was already in a coma. Matthew had a lot of complication and would never come out of his coma. He died on October 12, 1998 at 12:53 a.m. Aaron and Russell where later arrested when the police found the gun and shoes and wallet belonging to Matthew. Both Aaron and Russell where charged with the murder of Matthew and received two consecutive life sentences. They were never charged with a hate crime, since Wyoming does not have any law with such charge at the time.
One last unfortunate hate crime that happened was the murdered of James Byrd, Jr. James was born in Jasper, Texas.