This Essay seeks to show that there is less to some of these apparent differences than meets the eye. While hate crimes may tend to be less routine and more violent than discriminatory traffic stops, closer examination of each shows the need to complicate our understanding of both. The work of social scientists who have studied bias-motivated violence and of legal scholars who have studied racial profiling- prominent among them my fellow panelist, Professor David A. Harris- reveals striking similarities and connections between the two practices. In particular, both hate crimes and racial profiling tend to be condemned only at the extremes, in situations where they appear to be irrational and excessive, but overlooked in cases where they seem logical or are expected. The tendency to see only the most extreme cases as problematic, however, fails to recognize that neither practice is as marginal as it might seem. Both forms of discrimination are strongly influenced by a social context that has designated certain social groups as the accepted or "suitable" targets for ill treatment. They both reflect especially strongly the myth that certain groups are prone to criminality or deviance. In turn, the perpetration of both practices also reinforces both the suitable target designation and myth of criminal propensity by influencing the perceptions and behavior of both members and nonmembers of vulnerable groups.
"Suitable Targets"? Parallels and Connections Between "Hate" Crimes and "Driving While Black",
Mich. J. Race & L.
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