The term "hate crime" refers to a criminal act committed against individuals, property, or organizations because of the perpetrator's bias or [bigotry]( against a specific characteristic such as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, gender, or disability. Hate crimes are designed to send a message, not only to the immediate victim but also to the entire community to which the victim belongs. The message is generally one of exclusion, hatred, and fear, aimed at reinforcing social hierarchies or stereotypes. In the United States, the resonance of hate crimes is deeply embedded in the country’s history and closely tied to its diverse social fabric -- because [[discrimination]] against African Americans, Native Americans, and other minority groups has existed since the country’s founding. The [[Reconstruction]] era after the [[Civil War]], for example, witnessed the rise of the [[Ku Klux Klan (KKK)]], which used terror tactics against newly freed Black citizens. While not termed as "hate crimes" back then, these acts were clearly motivated by [racial animus]( ## Civil Rights Movement and its backlash The Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s brought further attention to hate crimes, particularly against African Americans and [[civil rights]] activists. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, and the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi are stark reminders of the lethal capability of hate crimes. Legislation against hate crimes began taking shape in the late 20th century. The Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 required the Department of Justice to collect data on crimes motivated by [[prejudice]]. Subsequent laws, such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, expanded the definition and federal jurisdiction to prosecute hate crimes related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Though legislation has been enacted, the issue remains fraught with challenges. Underreporting is a significant problem. Often, victims of hate crimes are reluctant to come forward due to fear of retribution or a lack of faith in the justice system. Additionally, there is a fine line between hate crimes and [[free speech (1A)]], making legal interpretation challenging. Public opinion also plays a role; societal views on what constitutes a "hate crime" can vary widely, making it difficult to establish a standardized definition or approach. ## Social media and hate groups In recent years, the rise of social media has given hate groups a broader platform to spread their messages, which in turn has been linked to a spike in hate crimes. High-profile events, such as the Charlottesville [[Unite the Right rally]] in 2017 and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018, have also catalyzed national conversations about the ongoing issue of hate crimes in America. In summary, hate crimes in the United States are a reflection of deeper social and cultural issues that have evolved over centuries. While legislative measures exist to combat this form of criminality, the complex interplay of social, legal, and technological factors makes it a continually challenging issue to address effectively. Understanding the historical context and contemporary manifestations of hate crimes is crucial for addressing the root causes and fostering a more inclusive society. See also: [[slavery]], [[Jim Crow]], [[Black Codes]], [[segregation]], [[antisemitism]], [[white supremacy]]