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HATE CRIMES by Jack Levin


The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed

by Jack Levin & Jack McDevitt

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-306-44471-2

 A compassionate, thoughtful analysis of an alarming and increasingly frequent phenomenon in our rapidly diversifying society. Northeastern University professors Levin (Sociology) and McDevitt (Associate Director of the Center for Applied Research) explain that attacks on people because of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation often share certain characteristics: They are unusually vicious, excessively brutal, and frequently perpetrated at random on total strangers by multiple offenders. The authors show how easily commonplace sexual, racial, or ethnic stereotypes- -circulated widely by popular culture and fueled by economic hard times (the authors talk hauntingly of a ``culture of hate,'' familiar to anyone who has heard rap lyrics or seen MTV)--can dehumanize their targets and justify the commission of hate crimes. We've created an environment, they contend, in which organized hate groups, on a mission to ``rid the world of evil,'' methodically pursue the destruction of segments of society, and a world in which less ideological ``thrill-seeking'' criminals commit random crimes against members of target groups. Other hate crimes are ``reactive''--hatemongers seizing on a precipitating incident to justify targeting groups they consider economic threats. What to do? Levin and McDevitt point out that police are often part of the problem, and so they advocate the creation of special units skilled in investigating hate crimes (a step already taken by a few departments). They also argue that legislatures and judges must become more active in punishing hate crimes as a distinct type of crime. The authors make a number of sensible suggestions about the rehabilitation of the ``thrill-seeking'' type of hate criminal, who is often more educable than his reactive or mission-oriented counterpart. Finally, they predict that, unless stemmed, hate violence will result in crisis, as economic decline is accompanied by an increase in cultural diversity. A sobering and much needed call to action.