Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Surge in Hate Crimes: What Does It Mean?

A Seattle Times article says that hate crimes jumped 27 percent in Washington between 2007 and 2008, according to the Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. 
It's the second year in a row that hate crimes increased in our state. Officials suggested it's because more victims are speaking up. 
Could it also be that the recession is stripping away the veneer of tolerance keeping some in check? When things go wrong, people look for scapegoats. Is this a sign of the times?
Academics who have done studies on this are all over the map: some say there's no connection, others disagree. A recent University of Iowa study found a link between economic downturns and higher rates of crime victimization among blacks and Latinos. But the study was looking at more than hate crimes.
What I do know is that words can wound. Hurling racial slurs during a scuffle turns it into something darker. Scrawling anti-gay graffiti on the fence  of a neighbor is more than vandalism.
It adds up to feeling afraid in your own home. To feeling vulnerable when you walk from the bus stop at night. To wondering what you did to deserve such cruelty.
Multiple those feelings times 235 incidents across our state in 2008 and that's a lot of hurt.
(Photo: by Kables)

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