Hate crime may typically be described as criminal behaviour that is motivated by a formulation of prejudice (Hutton, 2009, p.2). Such prejudices may be racial, religious, gender-specific, sexually oriented etc. The important factor in such crimes is that of ‘othering’. The perpetrator of the crime believes or attaches some pejorative value to the victim that may be based on the race of the victim or the religion that he belongs to. Having said that, hate crime is a term, whose definition is fraught with difficulties. Nevertheless, as Chakraborti and Garland (2009, p.4) point out: “efforts to measure the scale of the problem, or the appropriateness of the policy responses” will always depend on the definition of the problem.
Hate crime has a long history in the US, with its origins going back to the post Civil War period. In the UK, the concept of hate crime is relatively new (Chakraborti and Garland, 2009, p.2).
One of the predominant strains seen in hate crimes is related to racially motivated hate crimes. Race is one of the most common reason for prejudice. Since hate crimes are motivated by prejudice, such motivations can be the result of racial prejudices as well. It is no wonder then that racist hate crimes are the most widely recognised. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks, the US saw an unprecedented increase in crimes against those who looked or dressed like Arabs. Anyone who looked Asian, had a beard and wore a turban, was susceptible to violent behaviour. Many Sikh men, reported violent crimes against themselves. These are examples of hate crimes.
Homophobia is also a motivation for hate crimes. Again, one sees a pattern of ‘othering’, where those who are homosexual are seen as deviants. Homophobic hate crime is on the rise in the UK. One of the reasons for the profound hate that is espoused by homosexual behaviour is the hatred of the perpetrator of the flaunting of a different sexual orientation (Madison, 2009). This means that the prejudice is goaded by the perpetrator’s frustration at the public display of homosexuality. As Madison (2009, p.52) points out: “there is a vexed relationship between discourses of sexuality and notions of visibility”.
In the UK, the police has become more proactive in considering homophobic hate crimes as the case of murder of Jody Dobrowoski in London in 2005 demonstrates. Here, the police were quick to term the murder as a homophobic hate crime, leading to the swift arrest and conviction of the perpetrators (Chakraborti and Garland, 2009, p.56). Hate crimes are motivated by prejudice. Prejudice is very difficult to contain, especially in a diverse society. All prejudice does not result in hate crimes. There is an element of criminality in the perpetrator of the crime, which may be missing in other people, who hold similar prejudices but do not translate these prejudices into crimes.
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