A new report from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released Wednesday found hate crime laws are often inconsistent across the U.S.
The study, in partnership with 16 civil rights groups, also found that hate crimes vary widely in their responses to these types of crimes.
“At a time of rising hate violence, we need to re-examine and expand our responses. Hate crime laws serve a necessary purpose, but they are inconsistent, sometimes flawed, and can even harm the very communities they are meant to serve,” Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP, said in a press release. “We need to improve our hate crime laws and engage in broader solutions to reducing hate in our country. Like any law, hate crime laws alone won’t fix a problem as large as rising hate violence.”
Challenges that many hate crime laws have include issues in collecting information about the crime itself, a failure to confront the root causes of such crimes, abuse of the original intent of the laws, and the bias that is present in the criminal justice system.
The report noted that while white people commit most hate crimes, authorities record a disproportionately amount of Black people as the offender.
MAP and its partners offer several potential remedies for the current situation of hate crime laws in the U.S. These include improving data collection through new requirements related to hate crime reporting by law enforcement, investing more in communities that face hate violence, supporting anti-bias and anti-bullying education, improving law enforcement accountability, and investing in victim and community support services.
The report highlights recent anti-Asian hate crimes since the pandemic began. A man accused of killing eight people in Atlanta, many of whom were women of Asian descent, pleaded guilty to four of the murders, according to The Associated Press. Prosecutors have not claimed the crime was hate-motivated.
MAP's report features a forward by Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Shepard lost her son Matthew to homophobic violence in 1998. His death served as a catalyst for federal protections for LGBTQ+ people.
“We are at a turning point,” Shepard wrote. “Although we know that hate crime laws are important and have been successful in holding offenders accountable, we also know that they can and should be more impactful.”
The AP reported that the country’s first protections against hate violence were passed after the Civil War when white supremacist violence was on the rise against Black people who were formerly enslaved. Hate crimes have been modernized since 1968, expanding to 46 states. The news wire noted Arkansas, South Carolina, and Wyoming are the only states without hate crime statutes.
“As our country continues to grapple with racial injustice, bias in the criminal justice system, and rising hate violence against too many communities, it is critical that we reexamine our responses to hate crimes,” Mushovic said. “It’s clear that additional solutions are needed to address hate violence, including a careful review of how hate crime laws in their current and potential forms fit into the work of building safe communities for everyone.”