Hate Crimes

“I believe we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person”.

Rand Paul

What is a hate crime?

“A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”  Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.

FBI, Civil Rights


A hate crime is motivated by bias or prejudice against a person or people perceived to be a part of a group, and that is intended to induce fear, scare, terrify or cause psychological harm.  Victims of hate crimes often continue to feel threatened long after an attack due to being targeted simply because of who they are.  These crimes victimize everyone – individuals and our entire community.

On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  This measure expanded federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The following activities are examples of crimes that qualify as hate crimes if motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived group identity:

  • Physically assaulting someone while using derogatory racial, sexual, etc. words
  • Vandalism or “hate” graffiti directed toward a group where it will be seen by members of the targeted group, e.g. painting a swastika on a Jewish temple.
  • Burning a cross on the lawn of a black couple.


What is the difference between a hate crime and hate speech?

Hate speech is a controversial term for speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a group of people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability; hate speech includes written as well as oral communication. An important difference to recognize is that Hate Crime doesn’t always involve Hate Speech and Hate Speech in and of itself is not always a Hate Crime.  For example, a group may use Hate Speech in an attempt to discriminate: protesters carrying signs that say “God Hates Fags,” but this would usually not be a Hate Crime, because of freedom of speech laws.


What is a hate-motivated act and how does it differ from a hate crime?

A “hate-motivated act” is any incident in which an action taken by a person or group is perceived to be malicious or discriminatory toward another person or group based on bias or prejudice relating to such characteristics as race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity or any situation in which inter-group tensions exist based on such group characteristics. Hate-motivated acts may be violations of criminal law, such as “hate crimes,” or violations of civil law, such as unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, education or public accommodations.


What should I do if someone I know was the target of a hate crime or hate-motivated act?

The first thing to do is help them with any negative emotions they may be experiencing. For example try to delicately, reinforce that the incident was not their fault, by listening to them without judgment, and by expressing your support. Encourage the person to report the incident or seek medical attention or counseling if they need it. It can be very helpful to the person if you offer to go with them and help them along the way.


What if I think someone I know has committed a hate crime?

We understand it can be a difficult decision to report a friend, but please keep in mind that no one has the right to violate another person. Consider your options: you can choose to do nothing, confront the person, or report the incident. Remember, you can always report the incident anonymously.


The FBI’s Role

As part of its responsibility to uphold the civil rights of the American people, the FBI takes a number of steps to combat the problem of hate crimes.  The following efforts serve as a backstop to investigations conducted by state and local law enforcement agencies, which handle the vast majority of bias crime investigations throughout the country.

Investigative Activities: The FBI is the lead investigative agency for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes. The Bureau works closely with its local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners around the country in many of these cases.

Law Enforcement Support: The FBI works closely with state/local/tribal authorities on investigations, even when federal charges are not brought. FBI resources, forensic expertise, and experience in identification and proof of hate-based motivations often provide an invaluable complement to local law enforcement. Many cases are also prosecuted under state statutes such as murder, arson, or more recent local ethnic intimidation laws. Once the state prosecution begins, the Department of Justice monitors the proceedings in order to ensure that the federal interest is vindicated and the law is applied equally among the 95 U.S. Judicial Districts.

Prosecutive Decision: The FBI forwards results of completed investigations to local U.S. Attorneys Offices and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, which decide whether a federal prosecution is warranted. Prosecution of these crimes may move forward, for example, if local authorities are unwilling or unable to prosecute a crime of bias.

Hate Crimes Working Groups (HCWGs): The majority of the FBI’s field offices participate in local Hate Crime Working Groups. These Working Groups combine community and law enforcement resources to develop strategies to address local hate crime problems.

Public Outreach: The FBI has forged partnerships nationally and locally with many civil rights organizations to establish rapport, share information, address concerns, and cooperate in solving problems. These groups include such organizations as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Association of University Women, Anti-Defamation League, Asian American Justice Center, Hindu American Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Council of Jewish Women, National Disability Rights Network, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Organization for Women, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, The Sikh Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center, and many others.

Training: The FBI conducts hundreds of operational seminars, workshops, and training sessions annually for local law enforcement, minority and religious organizations, and community groups to promote cooperation and reduce civil rights abuses. Each year, the FBI also provides hate crimes training for new agents, hundreds of current agents, and thousands of police officers worldwide.

There are many ways in which racism can be manifested at all levels of society, as well as in our own behavior and attitudes – both subtly and covertly. Negative stereotypes about minority groups are likely to affect our own behavior unless we consciously and deliberately choose to reject them. There is no race or cultural group that is superior to others, and people are not ‘lesser’ because of their racial, ethnic or cultural origins. Racism interferes with our ability to see people as individuals, and diminishes peoples’ ability to achieve to their potential.

Take Action Against Racism! Your part in Society and Your Responsibility, courtesy to http://www.againstracism.info