Hate crimes are a serious issue in modern society. Based on prejudice and often involving violence, this type violates the most basic human rights. Despite being constantly addressed by different activist groups and getting the response from the legal system, hate crimes are still reported on a regular basis with varying frequency, mostly due to the lack of understanding by the victims and the uneven coverage by law.
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The state of Maryland is usually performing well when it comes to the percentage of hate crimes (TRNN, 2015). Nevertheless, when it comes to assessing the statistics, the numbers do not always show positive tendencies. For example, the total number of verified hate crimes have decreased by 35% from 2011 (78 instances) to 2012 (50 instances). However, in the next year, the number has grown the same amount, returning to 78. Among these, half of the crimes were conducted on a racial basis (39), and 28% on religious grounds (22). This latter number has also risen dramatically since 2012, which had only seven verified instances. The third leading cause is sexual orientation (16%), and the remaining 6% is based on ethnic prejudice (O’Malley, Brown, & Brown, 2014).
However, the reasons behind the increase in the crime rates are complex. While there is no doubt that racial and religious discrimination remains the sole reason behind the majority of the cases, the growing number of reported crimes does not necessarily mean the growing number of abuses. The hate crime is a relatively recent development in a legal system, and its classification is still undergoing changes. Thus, the crimes which previously fell under other categories, are now classified as hate ones. Additionally, the statistics only show the number of reported cases, which do not necessarily correspond to the actual number of abuses.
Finally, the numbers are still susceptible to the biased judgment, with the majority of cases being misattributed to the hate crime variety by the victims, either because of their lack of understanding of the concept or as a result of trying to gain an advantage by claiming to be a victim of discrimination. The statistics show more than 300 percent difference between the reported (252) and confirmed (78) number of instances, with the tendency being the most obvious among the crimes of racial origin (39 confirmed cases out of 156 reported ones, or a 400% rate) and a 200 to 300 percent in other fields (O’Malley et al., 2014).
Of the 78 confirmed cases, only one was conclusively proven to be conducted by a group with a race-bias ideology (O’Malley et al., 2014). This tendency also remains persistent throughout the years, with only two incidents associated with such groups in 2012. Apparently, the overwhelming majority of crimes are conducted by individuals who exhibit bias on the personal level rather than a part of membership in some group. This conclusion suggests several ways of addressing the issue.
First, awareness needs to be continuously raised regarding the situation. This includes organizing educational campaigns, forming activist groups, both on grassroots and official levels, and ensuring the adequate theoretical basis regarding the social and legal aspects of the hate crimes. The latter is especially important, as the statistics suggest that the current lack of understanding puts the victims at a disadvantage and at least some of them supposedly do not completely distinguish a hate crime from other variety. The authorities, on the other hand, need to improve the legal basis by creating more transparent criteria that at the same time do not omit any of the aspects of the abuse.
O’Malley, M., Brown, A., & Brown, M. (2014). State of Maryland 2013 hate/bias report. Web.
TRNN. (2015). MD among lowest number of hate crimes in the nation. Web.