Hate crimes have affected African Americans in more ways than just violence; therefore, our government needs to approach hate crimes differently. Aside of the fact that the United States has elected the first African American president, hate crimes has still occurred before and during his presidency. Of the 7,624 hate crimes committed in 2007 alone, 2,659 of those hate crimes were done on African Americans (“Hate Crimes Against African Americans”, 2012).
From the history of slavery, lynching, murders, the burning of crosses and churches, to the brutality that police officers have committed on African Americans, the black community has been affected tremendously in all aspects. The feelings and emotions of the African American society has been crushed and walked upon for over 400 years. In the nineteenth century, lynching was used to terrorize Blacks to maintain white supremacy. Lynching was open public murders of Blacks suspected of committing crimes.
Lynching was normally done by hanging or shooting African Americans. During these years, the supremacy of white people thought that in order to control Blacks, they had to pump fear into them. Prior to 1882, there was no record or history of lynching in America (Gibson, 2012). In 1882, the recordings of lynching began with the Chicago Tribune. Other institutes such as the Tuskegee Institute, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N. A. A. C. P. ) independently kept records of the lynching (Gibson, 2012).
This crime mainly occurred in the southern states however, it occurred throughout the United States. In the state of Mississippi, it was rated the highest in lynching African Americans (Gibson, 2012). Whites justified lynching black people as a law or “Neighborhood Watch” so to speak, included major crimes to minor offenses. Lynching blacks was based on the color of their skin and discrimination. One of the most memorable moments recorded that involved lynching was the murder and lynching of a 14-year-old African American boy named Emmett Till (Zheng, 2008).
In August 1955, Emmett Till was traveling from Chicago to visit his relatives in Mississippi (Zheng, 2008). While traveling, Emmett stopped to purchase some bubble gum from a local grocery store near Money, Mississippi. Before Emmett left the store, he was accused of making a flirtatious pass at Carolyn Bryant who was the wife of the owner of the grocery store. Two days after the grocery store incident, Emmett was kidnapped at midnight by two Caucasian men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J. W. Milam.
Emmett was tortured and pistol-whipped in a barn that J. W. Milam once lived. Emmett’s body was thrown into a bayou from the Black Bayou Bridge. Emmett Till’s body was later found with a cotton gin fan tied around his neck to hold his body down in the river. In September 1955, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam were tried for the murder of Emmett Till (Zheng, 2008). The five day trial was held and an all-white jury acquitted Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam (Zheng, 2008). In 1866, white people had established an organization called the Ku Klux Klan.
Their purpose was to torture and kill African Americans along with any whites sympathetic to Black people. Their other purpose was to stop African American people from voting. From braking into an African American’s home at night, taking them out of their beds and murdering them, the Ku Klux Klan were not arrested for their behavior. The impact of hate crimes on African Americans has drastically changed the ways that Black people perceive society. Aside of the Ku Klux Klan’s purpose, the implant of fear still plays a role in the mind many black individuals.
The religion-based characterization has been imprinted to the point that a black man or woman feels targeted, depending on the area that he or she lives or works in. The place of employment is mentally restricted in an African American’s mind to apply for a position based on the area it may be in. Stereotyping is a worldwide illness that has placed judgment on black men and women to the point that they are limited to opportunity and advancement in the working world and the political environment. Although we are no longer in the 19th century, hate crimes are still much alive in the 21st century.
In late August, early September 2006, an African American student of Jena High School located in Jena, Louisiana asked if he could sit under a tree on campus that was commonly known for only white students to sit under (Christie, 2008). The very next day after the African American student sat under that specific tree, three nooses were hanging from the tree. The school principal of Jena High School found out that three white students were responsible for this incident. Even though expulsion was recommended for the three white students, the superintendent of the school only suspended them for three days.
Because of the ongoing racial tension, in December 2006, a fight broke from a White student taunting some Black students supporting the incident of the nooses being hung from the tree in the school courtyard (Christie, 2008). The White student was badly beaten and had to be hospitalized. The African American students were later charged with attempted murder and conspiracy. The African American students were between the ages of 15 and 17, facing up to 100 years in prison without parole. African American residents of Jena, Louisiana stated that race has always been an issue there.
With the percentage being 85% of Whites in that community, chances of the African American students receiving a lighter sentence was unlikely (Christie, 2008). With the hate crimes becoming so public, the government has made efforts to improve the well-being of citizens of the United States. The federal government created a hate crime bill that was signed into law by president Obama in October 2009 (Shively & Mulford, 2007). The hate crime bill helps protect the people of the United States from being a victim of hate crimes.
This protects individuals from hate crimes based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender; female, male or intersexual, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity (Shively & Mulford, 2007). One may think that laws are here to serve and protect the community. If you were to ask individuals like Rodney King or Kendrec McDade, they would oppose to that statement. On March 3, 1991, the Los Angeles police pulled over Rodney King after a high speed chase with him and the L. A. P. D. The police officers pulled him out of his car and beat him severely.
Luckily the beating was caught on videotape by a citizen name George Holliday who witnessed the police brutality. Four of the police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King were tried and all four police officers were acquitted in the Simi Valley courthouse. Because of the ruling, riots were triggered in Los Angeles. Over 50 people were killed and more than 2,000 people were injured. In the case and murder of Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old African American was shot seven times by Pasadena police officers after receiving a false report of an armed robbery.
The report was made by Oscar Carrillo-Gonzalez stating that Kendrec and another teenaged African American had robbed him at gunpoint. Oscar Carrillo-Gonzalez later admitted to lying about the two teenagers having a gun. He also stated that he said they had a gun so the police could come to the scene faster. Kendrec McDade was left on the ground where he was shot to death for a long period of time before receiving any medical attention. Because of these facts alone, it gives a great deal of doubt when trusting law enforcement to resolve certain issues correctly.
Because of these types of crimes committed in the United States from then to now, there is definitely a problem that the government needs to come up with to solve this issue. Although there are not designated water fountains to drink out of or specific schools that African Americans has to go to any more, hatred toward African Americans still exist and needs to be stopped. Equality still has not been established in the working world, common socialization, profiling of law enforcers or the areas of living. It makes no sense to call it United States if different states have different laws.
I believe that the government should enforce a more powerful law that will require a higher punishment for these crimes. Thankfully there have been strong politicians and witnesses throughout the years that have given proof to the eyes of others along with the rights that African Americans finally have. I also believe that these attitudes have been implanted in the heads of those by generations before us. With that said, we the people must change the way that we think of others in order to help prevent these crimes from continuing.
Courtney from Study Moose