The FBI defines hate crime as the following:
A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.
You’d think hate crimes would be pretty obvious. Take the Charlestown, SC, Emmanuel AME Church shooting. Given witness accounts, it seems pretty clear that this was a race-motivated hate crime. And yet, we have all of these people who are trying to dismiss the racist, hate motivated aspects of the shooting. If had been a person of color, a muslim, or someone other than Dylan Roof, it would have been called what it was: a hate crime. But because it’s a white person, it was because he was “mentally disturbed” (and let’s not forget the ablism aspects of that particular assessment). If the victims had been white Jews in a synagogue, it would have also been immediately labeled a hate crime. If it had happened at a mosque? The media would have had the attitude of “well, that’s what you get for being a Muslim.” What if it had been a group of transgender people? If you look at the definition, transgender people are excluded because there is no provision for gender and gender identity. Transgender people are murdered in a way that most sane people would consider a hate crime, but these hate crimes rarely get investigated because transgender hate crimes are invisible, even under law.
We have a very myopic view of hate crime in this country. As a country, we are failing to protect our own people and people are dying. But, until our government sees people as real human beings rather than monolithic “enemies,” profit centers, and numbers, and educates the public accordingly, hate crimes will continue.