THE perception that culture, economic stability, safety, identity, and “normality” might be threatened by the “difference” of an individual or a group, is the underlying cause of hate crimes in the UK, a report commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has suggested. Social norms, values, and practices are also responsible for creating such contexts, against which groups or individuals can be marginalised or stigmatised.
Research Report 102: Causes and Motivations of Hate Crime, published last month, focuses on five characteristics of hate crime as recognised by current UK law: disability, transgender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. All five groups can be seen as a potential threat to the perpetrators of hate crime, and are therefore a common target of abuse.
Though not conclusive, the report states that the most common types of hate crimes are ongoing conflicts; targeted campaigns against individuals within a community; and incidents in public spaces — such as in the street, or on public transport — where the perpetrator feels aggrieved by the victim.
Perpetrators are also most commonly motivated by the thrill of conflict; a desire to protect their territory (such as neighbouring conflicts); retaliation against a perceived threat; or by a mission to eradicate groups or individuals who do not conform to their perceived norm.
Such prejudices can be attributed to “social psychology”, the report suggests, which can be loosely linked to personality types, the processing and simplification of information, and the influence of the family and education of the offender.
But the most likely influencer is the group to which a perpetrator of hate crime identifies, it suggests, most commonly to do with ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Any individual outside of this group is perceived as a threat.
This is either a “realistic threat” — such as perceived competition over jobs, housing, and benefits, or of physical harm (such as in the wake of a religiously motivated terrorist attack) — or a “symbolic threat” against identity, values, and social norms.
The report also states that, although there was an average of 222,000 hate-crime incidents a year in the past four years, most incidents, with the exception of “extreme manifestations of hate-motivated violence”, go unreported in the media. This can lead to misconceptions over the frequency of “low-level” hate crimes such as online or cyber hate-crime, which are becoming increasingly common, it states.