We are endlessly being misdirected in search of the crude “hate crime.” After centuries of racial oppression and violence, our society eventually became uncomfortable with the overtness of the racism of the past. Slavery is taken for granted as a horrific thing, something that couldn’t be assumed a few generations ago. For mainstream America, to be accused of being racist is to have been labeled something despicable. Few would willingly accept this charge upon themselves, defending themselves adamantly against such accusations. However, even worse than the racist label for those within the dominant culture, is for a person to be accused of a hate crime. Hate crimes have been created to isolate the most heinous of offenses that have been committed because of prejudice.
When you live in the city, you end up having a lot of conversations about crime. People want to know about your neighborhood, and the conversation inevitably dances carefully around people’s beliefs about the relationship between violent crime and race. The ugly assumption no one ever quite comes out and states plainly (because they totally aren’t racist): We know the perpetrators of violent crime will be people of color. The question is, who will the victims be? In reality, interracial violence makes up a small share of violent crime—and when it does happen, perpetrators and victims alike are pretty diverse.
It may seem hyperbolic for the Southern Poverty Law Center to add large and highly visible advocacy organizations to the list of hate groups it monitors. But not all hate comes from the fringe.