In 2007 Brent Martin, a 23 year old male with mental health problems and learning difficulties, was killed by three men. He regarded these men as friends but unbeknownst to him they had made a bet about who could knock Brent unconscious first. In an ordeal that stretched for over a mile, Brent was kicked, punched, stomped upon, and headbutted. He was dragged along by his belt constantly pleading with his assailants and calling them his friends. In a final act of humiliation he was stripped naked from the waist down and left lying in a pool of his own blood. Brent suffered fatal brain damage and died without regaining consciousness. (Chakraborti and Garland 93-94)
For the most part, violent crime has been declining throughout the United States; however, hate crimes – like the beating of Brent Martin – continues to rise. These acts send a message that certain groups are unwelcome and unsafe in particular communities. As a result they have a more serious psychological effect than other crimes. Victims link vulnerability to their personal, cultural, or spiritual identity. The societal costs of hate crimes, in terms of productivity, self-esteem, public expense, sense of community, and mental health, are incalculable. Former President Bill Clinton believes "All Americans deserve protection from hate. Nothing is more important to our country's future than our standing together against intolerance, prejudice and violent bigotry." These crimes are a form of domestic terrorism; victims and their families have repeatedly asked congress to do something about them. Current legislation does little to protect targeted groups from suffering the humiliation, fear and panic that stem from hate crime. Religion, family, leaders, and communities shape individual perceptions that transform into specific attitudes towards diversity; these attitudes influence behavior creating situations that affect the...