By Dominick Platt
Image Above: Source
Last weekend I was reading the news online, nothing out of the ordinary. Through my perusals, I stumbled upon an article detailing an incident where a man assaulted two transgender women in New York, and later saying he attacked them because they were transgender. An appalling crime to be sure, but what caught me off guard the most was the comments below. Now, I’m not naïve, and I know I’m not going to find a council of impartial scholars on some random internet comment section. However, through unfortunate spouts of hate and the whatnot, I saw several individuals who seemed confused on the nature of hate crimes. They seemed to be convinced that all crime stems from hate, and confused as to why this man would be charged for a hate crime and not an assault . This wasn’t only one person; rather, several people had this point of view. So, after some thought, I decided it’d be a good idea to bring a refresher to everyone’s eyes so as to illuminate the difference between a hate crime and an assault.
It’s quite simple really: the legal definition of a hate crime in the United States is “A crime motivated by racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation, or other prejudice.” Therefore, to commit a hate crime, one must commit a crime but also be found to be motivated to do said crime by the victim’s racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation, etc. That’s a big deal. To assault someone, or commit a crime against another individual, there’s no necessity for “hate” or animus towards that person. To punch someone in the face and steal their wallet, you don’t have to have any ill feelings towards who that person is. They’re merely an obstacle between you and that wallet. But, with a hate crime, the perpetrator is targeting the victim for merely being who they are. To feel the need to assault someone for merely being black, for being in a wheelchair, for just being different, shows a serious problem. That’s why it gets its own special moniker, because of the horrific mindset the person must be in to commit such an act for those reasons.
When looking at the FBI’s statistics on hate crimes as of 2015, one can that the majority of hate crimes are racial in nature at a scary 47%, with sexual orientation and religion, tied for second, are less when combined for a total of 37%. There’s no telling if the recent “bathroom debates” across the country have led to an increase on transgender individuals, but we’ll have that information in the next year or so. To impede hate crimes and other bigoted actions, one should be aware of the hate groups around them. According to the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), there are around twenty-nine hate groups in Tennessee. That’s high compared to other states. I’m not going to name any here, but if you go on the SPLC site you can navigate and find out for yourself. Now, once we become aware, we can do our part to stand for peace and community instead of trying to separate each other. We are a melting pot, and we should embrace what that means. Having other cultures come in, mingle and mix is what made America so strong, and it will continue to do so as long as we’re open-minded and tolerant.
Dominick Platt is a staff writer with The Galleon and is also a Creative Writing major at Christian Brothers University.