Hate crimes take different form, still similar from Civil Rights era

  • Published
  • By Capt. Hector Morua
  • Military Equal Opportunity
When I first started working Military Equal Opportunity and someone mentioned hate crimes, I thought back to the Civil Rights era in regards to black and white issues. 

However, as I've gained experience in the career field, researching and studying human relations, I realized hate crimes are as present today as they were back then. 

Hate crimes are defined by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Committee as a crime in which bias, hatred or prejudice is based on the victim's race, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation. When the evidence of bias is based on speech alone, the speech must have threatened violence against a specific person or group of persons. These statements can be expressed in oral or physical form, such as graffiti on property. 

Another misconception I had about hate crimes was that they were committed mainly by organized hate groups. However, according to Dr. Edward Dunbar, a clinical psychologist at University of California Los Angeles, of the 1,459 hate crimes committed in the Los Angeles area in 1994 to 1995, less than five percent of the offenders were members of organized hate groups. 

In reality, most hate crimes are carried out by otherwise law-abiding young individuals who see little wrong with their actions. Alcohol and drugs sometimes help fuel these crimes, but the main determinant appears to be personal prejudice, a situation that colors people's judgment, blinding the aggressors to their wrongdoings. 

Such prejudice is most likely rooted in an environment that disdains someone who is "different" or sees "difference" as threatening. 

I find it amazing that in today's global environment, individuals still react violently to such differences instead of embracing them and learning from what makes each and every one of us unique. 

We must learn that what affects one member of the group affects us all. We need to know and inform other people of the damage that prejudice and bigotry does to the fabric of our society, not only when a hate crime occurs, but also on an everyday basis. 

Anyone who witnesses a hate crime, or is a victim of one off base can report the incident to the Antelope Valley Human Relations Task Force Hotline at (877) 7AT-PEACE, call 911 or the closest police station. For on-base incidents, contact security forces, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, or the Military Equal Opportunity office. 

For more information on hate crimes, visit the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations Web site at http://lahumanrelations.org.