Book chapter

Hate Crime Policy in the United States (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

Hate crime policy has developed from the early legislation of the 1968 Civil Rights Act to the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, to be increasingly inclusive in terms of identity and comprehensive in terms of ramifications. Hence a body of scholarship around the trajectory and implications of hate crime laws has developed, as has a robust discourse on the definitions of hate crime itself and theories on who perpetrates bias-motivated violence and why it occurs. Between definitions of hate crime, a tension exists between legal definitions and those of theorists who are attempting incorporate understanding of context into the definition. Similarly, the theories on who perpetrates hate crimes and why they occur exhibit tensions between strain-based theories. While some scholars have deployed Merton's (1938) strain theory associated with societal anomie, others point to changing norms.As hate crime laws have become more inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, avenues of research into the disparities in experience of bias-motivated crimes between enumerated categories has increased. Persistent in the research on hate crime is the deficiency of data on victimization and ramifications beyond direct victims. While data on the scope of the policies is clear, inconsistencies in data collection around victimization render available resources insufficient.Most recently, research on hate crime policy has intersected with queer theory to question whether hate crime laws are positive for the LGBTQ community or society at large. Organizations such as the Silvia Rivera Law Project, for example, have pushed back on calls for inclusive hate crime laws via challenging the propensity to provide additional resources to the prison-industrial complex. Furthermore, queer scholars of history find a disconnect between the origins of the LGBTI movement in resisting police powers to be antithetical to promoting increased police powers in the form of hate crime legislation.