Hate Crimes

A hate crime is a crime that involves the use of force or threat of force may become a civil rights violation if the perpetrator was motivated by intolerance and hate (for instance, hatred of a particular ethnic group).

Hate crimes are violent actions intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.2,3

Hate crime can take many forms including4:

  • physical attacks – such as physical assault, damage to property, offensive graffiti, neighbor disputes and arson
  • threat of attack – including offensive letters, abusive or obscene telephone calls, groups hanging around to intimidate and unfounded, malicious complaints
  • verbal abuse or insults – offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes, and bullying at school or in the workplace
  • Hate crime legislation in the United States differs widely from state to state, but hate crimes are, succinctly, crimes motivated by animus toward members of a specific group or demographic.
  • The concept of a hate crime emerged in the late 1970s in the United States. Hate crime legislation became a widespread phenomenon in the 1980s, when various state lawmakers began classifying racially motivated crimes as a distinct form of crime.
  • The 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act expanded the federal definition of a hate crime to include crimes motivated by bias against disability, gender, gender identification, or sexual orientation.
  • In the seven years since the creation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the United States Justice Department has charged 258 defendants with hate crimes covered by this act.4
  • On average, daily in the United States, 8 African-Americans, 3 people of the LGBTQIA+ community, 3 Jewish people, 1 Muslim, and 1 Latino person will become a hate crime victim.5
  • Every hour in the United States somebody commits a hate crime6.
  • Analysis of the 6,063 single-bias incidents reported by the FBI6 in 2016 revealed that:
    • 57.5 % were motivated by a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias.
    • 21.0 % were prompted by religious bias.
    • 17.7 % resulted from sexual-orientation bias.
    • 2.0 % were motivated by gender-identity bias.
    • 1.2 % were prompted by disability bias.
    • 0.5 % (31 incidents) were motivated by a gender bias.
  • In 2017, hate crimes reported to police jumped 29.1% from 309 to 399 in Michigan, which had the fourth-highest number among all states in the U.S10.

You may have a bias incident on your hands if:8

  1. Slurs and epithets are used 
  2. Hate symbols — or inflammatory symbols — are used.
  3. The perpetrator(s) admit their conduct was motivated by prejudice or that they selected the target(s) based on their race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation or other identity factors.
  4. The target(s) believe the incident was motivated by bias.
  5. The target(s) openly engage in activities related to their race, ethnicity or other identifying characteristics.
  6. There’s been prior news coverage of similar bias incidents
  7. The acts are directed against members of groups whose presence in the community or school is opposed — e.g., Mexican immigrant students in a community where nativist groups are active.
  8. Ongoing school or community conflicts may have initiated or contributed to the act .
  9. Possible involvement by an organized hate group or its members — e.g., students who are skinheads taunt Jewish peers.
  10. A pattern of incidents in which the targets and perpetrators are of a different race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation — e.g. over a period of weeks, school records show a growing number of incidents involving conflicts between Latino and Black students.

10 principles for fighting hate in your community9

  1. ACT. Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public, and — worse — the victims. Community members must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.


  2. JOIN FORCES. Reach out to allies from churches, schools, clubs, and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition. Include children, police, and the media. Gather ideas from everyone, and get everyone involved.


  3. SUPPORT THE VICTIMS. Hate crime victims are especially vulnerable. If you’re a victim, report every incident — in detail — and ask for help. If you learn about a hate crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.
  4. SPEAK UP. Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth. Do not debate hate group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.


  5. EDUCATE YOURSELF. An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.


  6. CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE. Do not attend a hate rally. Find another outlet for anger and frustration and for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.


  7. PRESSURE LEADERS. Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies. But some must overcome reluctance — and others, their own biases — before they’re able to take a stand.


  8. STAY ENGAGED. Promote acceptance and address bias before another hate crime can occur. Expand your comfort zone by reaching out to people outside your own groups.


  9. TEACH ACCEPTANCE. Bias is learned early, often at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance. Host a diversity and inclusion day on campus. Reach out to young people who may be susceptible to hate group propaganda and prejudice.


  10. DIG DEEPER. Look inside yourself for biases and stereotypes. Commit to disrupting hate and intolerance at home, at school, in the workplace, and in faith communities.