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Tough on Hate?

Tough on Hate?: The Cultural Politics of Hate Crimes

Clara S. Lewis
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Tough on Hate?
    Book Description:

    Why do we know every gory crime scene detail about such victims as Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. and yet almost nothing about the vast majority of other hate crime victims? Now that federal anti-hate-crimes laws have been passed, why has the number of these crimes not declined significantly? To answer such questions, Clara S. Lewis challenges us to reconsider our understanding of hate crimes. In doing so, she raises startling issues about the trajectory of civil and minority rights.

    Tough on Hateis the first book to examine the cultural politics of hate crimes both within and beyond the law. Drawing on a wide range of sources-including personal interviews, unarchived documents, television news broadcasts, legislative debates, and presidential speeches-the book calls attention to a disturbing irony: the sympathetic attention paid to certain shocking hate crime murders further legitimizes an already pervasive unwillingness to act on the urgent civil rights issues of our time. Worse still, it reveals the widespread acceptance of ideas about difference, tolerance, and crime that work against future progress on behalf of historically marginalized communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6232-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction: The Cultural Politics of Hate Crimes
    (pp. 1-22)

    It is tempting to begin a book on hate crimes with violence. The words themselves, “hate” and “crime,” evoke images of the most heinous acts of prejudicial assault. Within the U.S. mainstream cultural imagination, sadism, Nazism, and white power dramatize hate crimes stories. In considering the problem, we are invited to recall the same select few victims’ degraded bodies. We see Matthew Shepard, Christlike, through the dark Wyoming night. His frail form strung up against a cattle fence, the tracks of his tears cutting lines down his bloodstained face. We see James Byrd Jr.’s dentures, thrown from his decapitated head...

  5. Chapter 2 The Invention of Hate Crimes
    (pp. 23-44)

    Peruse any college-level U.S. history textbook and you are likely to see examples of targeted violence against minority groups, including Native American removal, African slavery, and Japanese internment. In this expansive sense, hate crimes can be understood as a deeply seated, perhaps even universal, aspect of social life. Broadly, hate crimes erupt at the intersection of difference and power, which are two transhistorical, transcultural social facts.

    Despite the appearance of universality, the term “hate crime” is a relatively nascent invention. Federal statues define the term “hate crime” as “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in...

  6. Chapter 3 The Nation and Post-Difference Politics
    (pp. 45-64)

    Unlike other vexing social problems, hate crimes have been burdened with the chore of telling us who we are as Americans. “We can embody our values by passing hate crime laws,” urged Vice President Al Gore. “[Hate crimes are] not the American way,” asserted President Bill Clinton in his 2000 State of the Union Address. More recently, President Barack Obama posited, “At root, this isn’t just about our laws, this is about who we are as people.” As these statements highlight, the fight against hate crimes is shrouded in national mythology. This elevated rhetoric about shared values suggests that, even...

  7. Chapter 4 Cultural Criminalization and the Figure of the Hater
    (pp. 65-88)

    In his foundational study of deviance in Puritan New England,Wayward Puritans, sociologist Kai Erikson explodes the seeming divide between the figure of the conformist and the figure of the deviant. “The deviant and the conformist,” states Erikson, “are creatures of the same culture, inventions of the same imagination.”¹ Erikson’s choice of the words “invention” and “imagination” draws our attention to the layered acts of creation that produce society’s images of both criminality and obedience. But “same” is the more important word, repeated twice. Erikson’s sense of sameness, of shared origin and shared terrain, is perhaps the single most essential...

  8. Chapter 5 Hate Crime Victimhood and Post-Difference Citizenship
    (pp. 89-108)

    On January 16, 1992, theNew York Timespublished an article titled “Young Bias-Attack Victim Tries to Laugh Off the Pain.” Twelve-year-old Bryan Figuero was the young victim. “On his way to school on Monday morning,” reported journalist Maria Newman, “[Figuero] was set upon by several teen-agers who roughed him up and smeared his face with white makeup.” Figuero described being kicked and punched and feeling that the menacing teenagers were “laughing and making fun of my culture.” In reporting on the crime, Newman caught up with Figuero, his mother, Diane, and his best friend, eleven-year-old Ahmed. During the interview,...

  9. Chapter 6 Epilogue: Challenging Hate Crimes on a Cultural Front
    (pp. 109-126)

    In 2005, artist Mary Coble stripped down to the plainest white underwear ever manufactured and stoically endured twelve straight hours of inkless tattooing. The ordeal, or more judiciously “endurance performance,” titled Note to Self , was staged in Washington, D.C., at Conner Contemporary Art, a gallery that focuses on conceptual art in nontraditional media. Prior to the performance, Coble immersed herself in research on victims of homophobic hate crimes. From her findings, Coble compiled a list of over four hundred victims’ names, each of which she would tattoo on her body, and developed an analysis of the connection between individual...

  10. Appendix: Methods and Sources
    (pp. 127-128)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 129-144)
  12. Index
    (pp. 145-152)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 153-156)