The Struggle against Hate Crime: Movement at a Crossroads

57 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2008

See all articles by Terry A. Maroney

Terry A. Maroney

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: September 29, 2008


The 1980s and 1990s witnessed an extraordinary amount of police, legislative, judicial, scholarly, and community activity around hate crime. Such activity was attributable to a new "anti-hate-crime movement," conditions for which were created by the convergence in previous decades of two very different social movements - civil rights and victims' rights. This anti-hate-crime movement has been radiply assimilated into the institutions of criminal justice, with the result that anti-hate-crime measures now reflect the culture and priorities of those institutions.

The civil rights and victims' rights movements created collective beliefs, structural resources, and political opportunities that facilitated the emergence of a social movement organized around hate crime and its victims. Hate crime laws were the most visible manifestation of the movement's legal impact, but represent but one aspect of a larger legal and societal response. Much of the success of the movement is attributable to the fact that anti-hate-crime measures fit easily into the values of the criminal justice system; however, that system remains weighted against hate crime victims and their communities. For target communities, the desire to be free from hate crime is inseparable from the desire to be free. Anti-hate-crime measures too frequently address the former but not the latter. To acheive its goal of systemic transformation of criminal justice, the anti-hate-crime movement must engage in critical self-reflection, invest in movement infrastructure, and recommit to challenging the very institutions of criminal justice with which it now cooperates.

Keywords: hate crime, hate speech, social movements

Suggested Citation

Maroney, Terry A., The Struggle against Hate Crime: Movement at a Crossroads (September 29, 2008). New York University Law Review, Vol. 73, No. 2, 1998, Available at SSRN:

Terry A. Maroney (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615 343 3491 (Phone)

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