Hate Crimes and Everyday Discrimination: Influences of and on the Social Context
Rutgers Race & The Law Review, Vol. 4, p. 1, 2002
31 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2009
This article discusses aspects of hate crime that make it somewhat unexceptional. By making these points, I do not in any way mean to imply that hate crime is not a problem worthy of attention in the law. To the contrary, I believe that to point out the unexceptional aspects of hate crimes is to highlight just how important a problem hate crime is, and may help us to develop more effective ways of addressing it. My points are based largely on lessons drawn from social science and historical research on the effects of and motivations behind bias-related violence. Specifically, that literature shows that the way we have tended to think about hate crime-as an extreme, deviant, and isolated phenomenon-greatly oversimplifies the problem. The social science and historical research shows instead that hate crimes are connected to the mainstream social context, for they are strongly influenced by the social environment and in turn exert an influence on that environment. I also draw on points made by other legal scholars with regard to what might be considered more mundane or "everyday" forms of discrimination, such as racial profiling (particularly "Driving While Black"), consumer discrimination, and street harassment of women. Each of these areas is a context in which, as with hate crimes, the law has tended to exceptionalize the motivations and conduct of perpetrators. It thereby overlooks the extent to which those acts are influenced by the mainstream social context and, in turn, reinforce mainstream society's message that certain social groups have been designated as suitable or appropriate targets for ill treatment.
This Article identifies and describes the reciprocal influences between the mainstream social environment and the perpetration of both extreme and everyday discrimination, as well as the reciprocal influences among various types of discrimination. The law seldom does but ought to take into account these relationships because, as this Article also discusses, to exceptionalize discrimination has the ironic effect of "normalizing" or rendering acceptable a range of discriminatory practices that continue to reinforce widespread beliefs, assumptions, and expectations concerning the value and place in society of vulnerable groups.
Keywords: hate crime, discrimination, bias-related violence, bias crime, antidiscrimination laws, mainstream social environment, mainstream society, social context, ethnic intimidation statutes
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