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History News: The Past Catching Up With Us (On Hate Crimes)





University of Maryland Law Professor Sherrilyn Ifill, in a 2003 article (“Creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Lynching”), called for a formal tribunal to address the hate crime of lynching in the United States. Professor Ifill, a nationally recognized advocate for human rights, meticulously outlined the long history of hate crimes in the United States, especially against people of African descent in the south; the failure of government to stop the crime of lynching, and the actions of individuals, communities, and agencies to resolve the issue. Carefully assessing the efforts of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Professor Ifill expanded the idea of the nationalization of social justice. As Civil Rights “cold case” files are being closed (far too many without any resolution towards justice), this is a good opportunity to mount critical dialogues about “hate crimes.”

Definitions of what constitutes a “Hate Crime” vary based on differing social and legal standards. Generally,  a Hate Crime is any criminal action (punishable offense), that includes physical assault or defacement of property, motivated by extreme intentional bias/hostility/prejudice toward a person (the object) as a member of a specific group (based on color, race, ethnicity, creed, gender, religious affiliation, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation–and recently gender/gender identity [Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act], etc.). A hate crime can consist of harassment and intimidation as well as physical violence. It is a bias motivated crime that harms individuals and impacts entire communities, and there are national and world-wide laws established to protect the civil rights of citizens.

 See July 14, 2009, CONGRESSIONAL RECORD—SENATE S7491 [Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act]


Molefi Kete Asante, Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation. New York: Prometheus Books, 2003,

Jack Glaser, Jay Dixit, and Donald P. Green, “Studying Hate Crime with the Internet: What Makes Racists Advocate Racial Violence?” Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 58, No. I, 2002, pp. 177-193.

Scott Phillips and Ryken Grattet, “Judicial Rhetoric, Meaning-Making, and the Institutionalization of Hate Crime Law,” Law & Society Review, Vol. 34, No. 3. (2000), pp. 567-606.

Eric K. Yamamoto, “Racial Reparations: Japanese American Redress and African American Claims,” 19 B.C. Third World L.J. (1998), http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/twlj/vol19/iss1/13

Michael Shively and Carrie F. Mulford. “Hate Crime in America: The Debate Continues,” NIJ Journal, No. 257, June 2007, http://www.nij.gov/journals/257/hate-crime.html

“It is a human story that can be resolved only by humans engaging in the most open discussion about purpose and will.”— Molefi Kete Asante, Erasing Racism (12)