2009-03-12 / Community

T.O. not immune from hate crimes

By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

"What causes hate?"

That's the milliondollar question, according to Helen Lim, California Lutheran University criminal justice assistant professor, who specializes in the study of hate crimes.

"What causes hate is pretty complex," she said.

The many contributing factors include biases and stereotypes.

"We all have biases, and that doesn't necessarily cause hate," the professor said.

Stereotypes diminish individuals by categorizing them in a simple way, using a few characteristics to come up with a broad, inaccurate image of a group of people.

Add additional elements to biases and stereotypes, and hate can result, Lim said.

These elements include what's taught in a family, encouragement by a group of friends or competition for the same resources.

A bad economy could trigger hate if people with biases find themselves competing for jobs with people whom they've stereotyped, the teacher said.

Or something such as competing for the same girl could tip the scale, Lim said."We shouldn't let stereotypes control us."

Talking about hate crimes can help.

"We need to realize we've made some strides, but the problem still exists," Lim said.

More education and communication is needed. "People still hang out with people who look and act like they do."

When hate becomes a crime, the community must collaborate and stand against it, she said.

In California, a hate crime is a crime against a victim because of race, color, religion, ancestry, natural origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

Schools, police, organizations, families and courts all must come together to say "no" to hate crimes, said Lim.

Last month police arrested two 15-year-old Thousand Oaks High School students for allegedly painting swastikas on the locker of a 13yearold Redwood Elementary School student who is Jewish.

They were charged with a hate crime.

Even when a community comes together to fight against such crimes, hate crimes are still grossly underreported, according to the professor.

"Fear of retaliation, fear that police have their own bias and won't take it seriously, or language barriers are some of the reasons hate crimes go unreported," Lim said.

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