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Hate is defined as an intensely hostile aversion, compounded of anger and fear (The New Webster’s). In Andrew Sullivan’s essays, he discusses a specific kind of hate: the hate crime. A hate crime is a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence. Throughout his essays, Sullivan describes many of these prejudice terms, such as xenophobia, bigotry, and what he calls the “isms.” By examining these terms, people can understand the different types of prejudice, relate them to current events in society, and learn how to overcome the hate in our world.
In Sullivan’s essays, he mentions many types of prejudice. The New Webster’s dictionary defines xenophobia as far or dislike of strangers or foreigners, but the term is typically used for people from other countries. He also uses the term bigotry, which is a broader term that relates to someone obstinately and intolerantly devoted to his beliefs, creed, or party (The New Webster’s). Sullivan also names a group of words as the “isms.” These include sexism, racism and Anti-Semitism. Sexism is prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex (Google). Racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior (Google). Anti-Semitism is hostility or prejudice against Jewish people (Google). Sullivan also throws homophobia; the dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people (Google). By understanding these words and what they mean, people can use them to understand the different types of hate that appear in the world today.
There is no doubt that hate crimes exist in the modern world. Congress defines the hate-crime-law as 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 (FBI). Advocates of the hate-crime-law, say that hate crimes are an epidemic, however, Sullivan, who is against the hate-crime-law, claims there is “no hard evidence to support that statement.” He supports this statement by showing that in 1992, there were 6,623 incidents of hate crimes in the U.S, and that in 1996, there were 8,734 incidents of hate crimes in the U.S, however, in 1996 there were 11,355 FBI agencies covering 84% of the population, but in 1992 there were only 6,181 agencies covering 51% of the population. The author admits that these numbers likely underreport the amount of hate crimes in the U.S those years, but states that they are the only reliable figures and clearly don’t show an epidemic of hate crimes. The do exist though and Sullivan names a few in his essays, such as John Williams King’s killing of James Byrd Jr. in 1997, where King tied Byrd to the back of his truck and dragged Byrd three miles until Byrd’s body split in half.
Sullivan makes an interesting point in one of his essays about where hate can come from. He says that “those who are demeaned and objectified are likely to develop an aversion to their tormentors more hateful than the prejudice they have been subjected to.” The author, being gay, admits to struggling with hate, but mentions most of it comes from other homosexuals. Another interesting point is what defines a hate crime. Does this mean that a crime that is racially motivated is more hateful than a crime lacking that? Sullivan asks this question, discussing the attacks of a mentally ill man, who ended up killing one person, and another case where a man murdered his family and several random people, killing a total of 12. Although both scenarios are heinous acts of murder, the second is a bit more frightening because of the death toll, however, only the first case where one person was killed was considered a hate crime. These thought provoking ideas provided by Sullivan invite people to think critically about hate in the world and eradicate it.
Andrew Sullivan’s main point in his essays seems to be that people should not focus so much on the label of “hate crime.” A crime that lacks the qualifications to be considered a hate crime is not always filled with less hate, as is true with the opposite. The fault lies in the fact that people have created words, like the isms, that Sullivan says are better at alleging structures of power than delineating the workings of the individual heart or mind. By better understanding these words and their prejudice, people can relate them to current events in society and learn how to prevent hate from existing in the world. Not just hate relating to that of a hate crime, but all hate, because as Sullivan puts it, “The truth is, the distinction between a crime filled with personal hate and a crime with group hate is an essentially arbitrary one.”
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