From the killing of Matthew Shepard to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, horrific incidents of violence against members of marginalized communities galvanized the social justice movement to pursue measures to prevent such acts — including pushing for “hate crimes” legislation.
A new PRA discussion paper (pdf) by Kay Whitlock illuminates the history of hate crimes statutes and questions the efficacy of framing the issue in terms of “hate.” Whitlock assesses how the “hate frame” focuses on irrational individuals and fringe groups rather than broader, structural violence and discriminatory institutions. She further asks whether the criminal justice system, with its own record of oppressive behavior, is the best means through which to combat structures of inequality.
Whitlock is a longtime LGBTQ rights activist and former National Representative for LGBTQ Issues with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Reconsidering Hate is intended to spark incisive conversations among social justice advocates about the movement’s achievements and challenges.
As a launching point, the discussion paper includes the responses of several movement leaders to the conversation around the “hate” frame:
Rinku Sen, executive director of the Applied Research Center (ARC), highlights the need to look beyond the police and towards collective notions of justice oriented to prevention rather than punishment.
According to Pat Clark, former director of Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch program, systemic problems such as intolerance and violence require community-wide input and engagement to find effective, transformative solutions.
Rashaan D. Hall, deputy director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, applied his experience as a former prosecutor to assess possibilities to improve the effectiveness of hate crimes legislation.
Listen to Kay Whitlock speak at a Chicago Insight Arts event, “Trauma, Technology, and Resistance.”