They are incidents involving harassment, bullying, physical injury, or property damage where the offender is motivated by discrimination against the victim based on his/her race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, and/or disability.
In situations where physical injury or property damage are involved, hate crimes law may apply to the crime. Lawmakers pass hate crime laws to punish offenders. District attorneys prosecute those who violate the law. The police enforce the law.
But the work of the lawmakers, district attorneys, and police address only part of the solution. Community members complete the solution when they:
• Provide support to the victims;
• Serve as a liaison between the victims and community and law enforcement, prosecutors, and service agencies;
• Express the community’s reaction to the occurrence of a hate crime;
• Promote tolerance and diversity, thereby healing the wounds or negating the hate;
• Offer education to community members on hate crimes and ways to combat them;
• Organize preventive measures and programs;
• Lobby for stronger federal and state hate crime laws; and
• Build bridges with people from different backgrounds.
In some communities a community-based organization exists that can assume the lead role. But in many cases, the appropriate organization may be too far away or lack sufficient resources to do all of the work. Which begs the question,“Who will step up?” The answer is “you.” You don’t need to have any experience with community organizing. You simply need to care, and find other allies who similarly care. Together, a small number of active individuals can stimulate an entire community to respond.