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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:

HateCrimesBanner

In case you can’t read what it says:

FIELD OF FLAGS

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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