Four white men have been are being questioned in an attack on Black man that is being investigated as a hate crime, The New York Times is reporting. The attack occurred Tuesday night on Staten Island, a borough of New York City.
For those interested in reading more about hate crimes in the scholarly literature, I’d point you in the direction of Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt’s work. Their 1993 book, Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed, and their 2002 follow-up, Hate Crimes Revisited: America’s War Against Those who are Different, really set the standard in this field.
In my reading of this literature, a few of things are worthy of note. First, the perpetrators of hate crimes are most often not members of organized hate groups. Second, the perpetrators are most often individual or small groups of young, white males. And, third, there’s very little in the literature about how to effectively “rehabilitate” perpetrators, not to mention “intervene and prevent” (to use the language of public health) hate crimes. For example, in a 2003 article by Steinberg, Brooks and Remtulla, they found that:
Although limited information is available about the causative factors of hatred, a variety of prevention and intervention strategies have been employed. Yet, little has been done to evaluate these various initiatives. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of literature available to guide mental health professionals in the identification, evaluation, and treatment of offenders, despite increasing concerns and awareness regarding the profound consequences of acts of hatred and extremism.
In other words, there’s very little evidence that the kinds of sentences that hate crime offenders are frequently given – such as talking with Holocaust survivors – are at all effective in preventing future offenses. While there’s certainly a critique to be made about a “mental health” approach to hate crimes, I find it striking that there’s so little research in this area. Sounds like a great dissertation idea for someone.
UPDATE: Prosecutor fails to indict on ‘hate crime,’ charges simple assault instead. Protest planned. More here.
Not to deflect from the recent event above, but wanted to provide an example of how hate crimes are presented in the public light in the Pacific Northwest. This is a story from a couple of years ago. Locally, the word of mouth story in both towns went as follows: Students and fans from both WSU and UI went to a local bar in Moscow, ID. The Vandal, Eric McMillan, who was black, and the one shot in the story below, had “hit on” a white female in the bar. The two men responsible for the shooting and who ran from the cops were white—they followed McMillan home and shot him because he had flirted with a white female. The stories in the newspapers and on the news were slightly different. Not necessarily lies, but important information is missing while a couple of not so important points thrown in that play on stereotypes. For example, I don’t remember hearing anything about drugs being involved with this…and the way the story as presented below allows for the reader to suspect or assume McMillan may have been involved in a drug deal that went wrong (something to throw to the readers in case they learn he was a black ball player) and/or that the attackers were just in a “bad state of mind” at the time they committed the crime (after all, they are white—just got too high). I don’t recall hearing that the attackers had commuted from Seattle to spend the weekend in that area…we understood they lived in the local area—although possible. They were not, as far as the local story went and in the news, affiliated with any “formal” hate group organization—if they were, that information was withheld from the public. But the story ignores “race” altogether and says things such as: “He had a bubbly personality, a huge white smile, no enemies…” which leads outside readers to assume all involved were just white and to not ask critical questions that would otherwise reveal a very different picture of this terrible act—yet…at the same time, the quote above is very eerie considering his race was not addressed in the articles on this case (in Washington, Idaho, or Montana that I have seen)…. Further, it diverts the readers’ attention away from the local hate groups that reside in the Moscow, ID area where the crime took place, making so much invisible. Attached is a link to this story to show how the Northwest (in general) reports and treats hate crimes for anybody interested (just one example of an article on this particular story):