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The Scholarship of “Hate Crimes”

Back from a semi-restful Spring Break trip to Satellite Beach, FL. I’ll try to be a bit more writeful in the days ahead.

Here’s something I meant to write on before I left. It was “One World Week” at WCU, and there were all these little flags planted in the lawn outside the Student Center:

Hate Crime Flags

Hanging on the front of the Student Center building was a key:


In case you can’t read what it says:


During 2004, more than 9,000 hate crimes were reported. These crimes are represented by the flags you see on the UC Lawn today. They are color coded as follows:

(Red) RACE: 5,119 were motivated by racial bias.

(Yellow) RELIGION: 1,586 were motivated by religious bias.

(White) SEXUAL ORIENTATION: 1,482 were motivated by sexual orientation bias.

(Blue) ETHNICITY/NATIONAL ORIGIN: 1,254 were motivated by ethnicity/national origin bias.

(Orange) DISABILITY: 73 were motivated by disability bias.

One of my new kicks (inspired by the February visit of my former PhD advisor - it’s his kick as well) is that as scholars, we should be scholarly about everything on campus. So let’s ask some questions:

  • Reported where? North Carolina? The U.S.? The world?
  • If it’s 9,000 in the U.S., how does this number compare to other types of crimes? Should we set aside weeks devoted to those crimes as well?
  • Reported? Reported by whom? By the victims? By the police? If by the victims, were the details of the crime verified?
  • How many were prosecuted as hate crimes?
  • How do you determine that a crime was motivated by bias?
  • What exactly qualifies as a hate crime? Does it have to be violent?

I realize that the display on the UC Lawn was for effect, and I realize that I can’t expect every banner posted on campus to be accompanied with citations, but this strikes me as playing fast and loose with statistics to make a political point (whatever it might be). I suppose it’s to raise awareness.

As you might guess, I have a problem with the whole hate crime mindset. I don’t see how you can get to motivation or why it should make a difference. Which is worse: getting beat up for my money, getting beat up because I’m white, or getting beat up for no reason at all?

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