Several thousand hate crimes are committed annually in the United States. The FBI estimates that more than 6,600 hate crimes took place across the nation in 2010, the most recent year such statistics are available. Given that many hate crime victims don’t report their attacks to authorities, the actual number of hate crimes that take place yearly in the U.S. may be significantly higher than the figures reported to the FBI. Add in the fact that the media tends to only cover the most shocking hate crimes, such as when white supremacist Wade Michael Page gunned down six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in August 2012, and it’s easy to see why some members of the public think hate crimes rarely ever happen. For others, even one hate crime is unacceptable. Take action against hate crimes by contacting lawmakers, reaching out to victims and raising awareness, to name a few.
Donate to Groups That Fight Hate
If you want to counter racial intolerance in your community, why not financially contribute to groups that track hate crimes and raise public awareness about prejudice and xenophobia? The Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama is one of the leading U.S. organizations that chronicle the activities of white supremacist and other hate groups. The center also offers activities that educators and community leaders can use to foster diversity and promote multiculturalism. Other groups may not focus on hate groups generally but on a specific minority group that may be vulnerable to bias attacks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Sikh Coalition, for example, advocate for members of these religious minority groups. They also report on the hate crimes such worshippers have been subjected to by members of the public who view them as outsiders or enemies. African Americans remain the group in the U.S. most likely to be victimized in a hate crime. Groups such as the NAACP advocate for the rights of blacks and seek to advance civil rights.
Express Your Support for Hate Crime Victims
When six worshippers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin lost their lives in a hate crime on Aug. 5, 2012, other religious groups responded by expressing their support for them. CAIR released a statement saying, “American Muslims stand with their Sikh brothers and sisters in this time of crisis and loss. We condemn this senseless act of violence, pray for those who were killed or injured and offer sincere condolences to their loved ones.” It’s easy to believe CAIR released this statement due to the perception that the gunman in this case killed six Sikhs because he confused them for Muslims. However, the Anti-Defamation League, which has Jewish ties, also released a statement in support of the Sikh shooting victims. “We are deeply shocked by this heinous act of violence against peaceful innocent Americans targeted at their house of worship, apparently singled out because of their faith and appearance that makes them appear different from other Americans,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.
When non-victims express their support for those targeted in hate crimes, it sends the message that it’s not okay to use violence to perpetuate bigotry. Individuals can show their support for hate crime victims by writing letters to the editors of newspapers or websites and attending candlelight vigils in honor of those harmed. If the contact information of victims is readily available, use it as an opportunity to get classmates, church members or others in the community to send in letters offering condolences and expressing support.
Get Hate Crime Legislation Passed
Find out what your state’s policy is on hate crimes. While the majority of states do have laws on the books concerning bias crimes, these laws may not protect all minority groups. Discover if your state’s hate crime legislation protects religious or racial minorities, gays, lesbians, etc. If your state isn’t protecting a group you think is vulnerable to attack, try to get that group added to the list. If your state doesn’t have a hate crime law, write to your congress people, senator or other elected representatives to get a hate crime bill passed there. Individuals found guilty of hate crimes often face stiffer penalties, including more jail time, than other offenders. Hate crime laws signal to perpetrators that bias motivated violence won’t be tolerated.