Troy L. Wheeler
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Facts for teens about hate crime and what to do about it
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, somewhere in
Someone commits a hate crime
At least eight black people, three white people, three gay people, three Jewish people, and one Latino person become hate crime victims
A cross is burned
A hate crime is a crime directed against people because of what they are, not who they are. These crimes include those directed at others because of their
This inherent hate for a whole group of people for no particular reason other than one's own bias is not something people are born with. Hate is a learned behavior. In an ever increasing multi-cultural society people are often faced with those who are different than themselves and diversity awareness is a vital component to a peaceful existence.
The American Psychological Association, in referring to hate crimes, remarked, "not only is it an attack on one's physical self, but it is also an attack on one's very identity." Hate crimes are any crimes where bias, prejudice, or bigotry are a motivating factor. In 2002, the FBI reported that there were 7,462 hate crimes committed nationwide. These crimes were motivated by:
17% Sexual Orientation
Yet, the most disturbing statistic is that half of all hate crimes in the national are committed by youth ages 15-24. Many times youth commit these crimes because they are ignorant or misinformed about the target group. Just as this behavior is learned, it can be unlearned through teaching tolerance and understanding diversity.
Engaging youth in open discussion about their beliefs and stereotypes is a way to start fixing the problem. They can think about the stereotypes they might hold about different groups and then think about times when they have been on the receiving end of such stereotypes. In order to help foster tolerance, teens should learn to take responsibility for their actions as individuals, try to make an effort to reach out to those people who are different, and get involved in their community to learn more about the people they live with.
Things teens can do to build tolerance:
Appreciate their own and others' cultural values
Object to ethnic, racist, and sexist jokes
Refrain from labeling people
Not judge others, especially for things they have no control over
Adults are integral in providing a positive, healthy example for youth to follow. By being tolerant themselves, they can pass that behavior onto the youth with whom they interact.
Things adults can do to help teens:
Educate the community about hate crimes and diversity
Making sure that those who work closely with teens (teachers, school administrators, police officers) receive diversity training
Help develop constructive activities for youth