III. The legacy

A. Hate Crime:

The legal category of hate crime in the United States is only a decade old. The U.S. Congress defines it as a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the roperty that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.

The number one problem today with hate crime is underreporting according to the Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR). The federal government counts hate crimes nationally, but state law enforcement agencies can choose whether or not to do so. CDR reports that hate crimes are far more common than the public realizes, that many victims are afraid to report these crimes, and that some local government agencies and university authorities do not like to report hate crime incidents for fear of bad publicity.

The problem is particularly acute in the South, where some law enforcement agencies view this category as a form of affirmative action, another "benefit" for people of color.6

The case of Alabama is striking. In 1998, Alabama did not report a single hate crime. Just one year later, in 1999, a gay man in northern Alabama was badly beaten and burned to death on a pile of tires because of his sexual orientation. This same year a cross was burned on the lawn of an African-American man in the state capital. In August 2000, new Salvadoran immigrants living in Mobile find KKK literature outside their home. And in November, 2000 an African American family that moves into a predominantly white neighborhood in Montgomery finds a KKK note outside their door.

In other parts of the country hundreds of hate crimes are reported. This data collection allows citizens and government officials alike to design programs to combat this phenomenon and prevent it.

The hate crimes reported in the South are alarming. CDR found that between 1990 and 1997, more than 400 black and multiracial churches had been burned or firebombed in the United States, the majority in the South. This constitutes a direct violation of Article 5 of CERD. During this period more than 20,000 people of color had their churches destroyed at property damages exceeding $US 25 million. Attacks on churches over a century old were particularly devastating to Black communities in what was seen as an attempt to obliterate their history and culture.(2)

The Souths special history makes hate group activity, hate speech and hate crime, particularly menacing for victim groups. While the KKK is no longer part of the state in the South, even as recently as 1998 over two dozen state legislators in Mississippi were members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a well--known hate group.(3)

'An attitude expressed to CDR during recent interviews with law enforcement officials in Alabama.