Why are Hate Crimes Increasing?

From the UK, hate crimes in 2011 increased 30% over crimes in 2010.  The linked article gives some speculation.  I’ll give some of my own, as it missed something important.

First, I’m not from the UK – I’ve visited, so I can tell you about Heathrow, but I am no expert on UK society!  Second, the government has only been apparently gathering this data since 2009 – so it’s hard to extrapolate it too much.  So weigh what I say carefully.

First, I do agree that the attacks on disabled people as freeloaders and “fakers,” who are out to cheat the system and live off other people’s money, is certainly a likely contributor.  Not in the direct, “Oh, I’m going to beat the crap out of a cheat” sense.  Rather, I believe it’s a contributor in that it lowers the standing of disabled people in the eyes of people.  It builds a subtle prejudice in people’s eyes, who might say, “Not every disabled person is cheating the system,” but somehow that some are.  Ironically, many of the people who are victims of the hate crimes end up being the people who are obviously members of the class of disabled people!  So, in other words, people that are seen by others as not faking it are facing the prejudice directed in general to disabled people.

That’s why I say it’s not’s a direct link – it’s not attacks against perceived cheats so much as attacks against a group of “others,” a group of people “not like us.”  The further from us, the more “other” someone is, the more difficult it is to have empathy for them, to relate to them, to understand them.  And “this group of people is spending your tax dollars” certainly will other people.

But there’s other elements, too.  Disabled people, even in the UK, are also gaining rights and integration in society, even at the same time that society is attacking their ability to survive through benefit “reform”.  It’s not an all-or-nothing thing – progress can be made with laws such as the Equality Act of 2010, which extended significant protections to disabled people – particularly things like accessibility to services and goods.  Of course this occurred in a time when the UK economy is not good, and this will certainly cost businesses some money (although typically not a significant amount).  But it will magnify feelings of otherness, because now, in addition to disabled people being cheats, the government is making other people pay “even more” for services – all the while “normal” people are struggling.  To some, this can feel like an attack on them – the government is taking from them and giving to cheats.  That furthers the otherness (as I mentioned above, I don’t think the hate crimes are primarily directed at suspected cheats, just members of a class with increased otherness).

There’s a dynamic when people gain rights – crimes against the people gaining rights increase as rights are granted, at least initially.  People feel threatened by the change, don’t like what is going on, and this forms the basis of how they see people.  In the USA, for instance, in California, hate crimes against gays decreased from 2002 until 2007, when they rose again slightly, and then jumped greatly in 2008.  Even in 2007, hate crimes against gays were approximately 18% of the hate crimes committed (a rate that held study for a few years).  But in 2008, it jumped to over 24% of all hate crimes.

In 2008, the courts ruled that gay marriage must be allowed by the state.  It was also the year of a successful push by opponents against these rights, resulting in a initiative that banned gay marriage.  So there was both an increase and decrease in people’s rights.

What is interesting is 2009 – after gays lost the right to marry: hate crimes against gays decreased to 21% of all hate crimes.  The perceived threat of gays having rights had dropped by then – the haters won, with Prop 8 in 2008.  Equally interesting is that hate crimes against gays again increased in 2010 – the same year that Judge Walker ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional (and, thus, ruled that California’s ban against same sex marriage was unconstitutional), a major win for gay rights in California, hate crimes against gays again increased to 25.1% (even higher than in 2008).  (sadly, this was appealed, first to an appeals court, then to the Supreme Court, so gays in California can’t yet marry, as the courts have issued stays on Judge Walker’s ruling pending the appeals)

I believe a big part of the trend in California is directly related to a minority, an “other”, gaining rights.  This increased visibility, increased discussion, and increased bigotry among some.  It’s kind of ironic that gaining rights puts people at risk, but it does seem to do exactly that.

In the meantime, we can’t stop working towards gaining rights.  One thing that is clear about public opinion is that the law can have an effect on public opinion.  While hate crimes may increase and misguided individuals may feel threatened or increase their views of others being even more “other”, overall law does change people’s opinions.  There’s a lot of reasons for this, but one of the biggest is that it gives legitimacy to people who agree with the law.  Now, rather than worrying about appearing controversial, they can simply point to the law.  They may have had the same feelings before the law passed, but now they themselves aren’t taking a stand – the courts or law already did that.  And as more people take these stands, it becomes a less controversial stand – it influences others who didn’t feel that way (yay peer pressure!).

I suspect the situation in UK is complex.  I suspect my analysis doesn’t do it justice.  But it may not just be indication of people losing, it may also be a misguided attempt at retaliation for gains made.

Another oldie…Ticket for Violating Autism Stereotypes

Often, autistics are expected to follow certain rules and regulations, and fit properly within their stereotype. As a humorous attempt to make it easier to “enforce” these stereotypes, the following ticket may be used to let an autistic person know that they were “out of line.” Feel free to give one to your autistic friend when they show a violation of a stereotype!

Peace…it’s not a bad thing

Okay, not about autism today either.  But I wanted to write something after watching the news from Libya and watching reactions from politicians and religious figures.

I have deep Christian beliefs.  That’s one of the reasons I’m so sad when I see the perversion of my religion made into a hateful, judgmental, legalistic thing.  My religion is living to me, not a bunch of rules.

Yet too many Christians want to condemn all Muslims for the attack against the American embassy in Libya.  Which is exactly the same thing that the extremists did in Libya when they lumped all Americans into one category.  We can argue about the right to offend people versus the right to not be offended, but at the end of the day I can’t believe that we’ve got a future as a species if we’re going to go around trying to piss each other off and show how right we are -or- if we are going to murder people of the “wrong” nationality in retribution for offense (note that I’m not saying offending someone is morally equivalent to murder, as clearly it isn’t, at least to me).

But some can’t seem to handle people not believing the same things they believe.  From my standpoint, It’s almost as if people want war.  In the name of their God.  Yuck.

My hope is that some of us don’t, and eventually we’ll find better ways of disagreeing with one another.

Racism and Accusations of Racism

Button that reads "Once you VOTE BLACK you NEVER go back - OBAMA 2012I hate political crap during election years.  You hear from party loyalists on both sides about how great their candidate is and how the other guy is the spawn of Satan (both Presidential candidates, literally, have been called the anti-Christ).

But the racism allegations were too much for me to pass on by. (note that this post is US-centric, since that’s the political system I know something about)

The botton shown next to this article, “Once you vote black you never go back – Obama 2012” was sold to attendees at the 2012 by an enterprising guy that runs a storefront selling a variety of similar merchandise.

While that button is decidedly off-message for a Presidential candidate (google “once you go black you never go back” if you don’t believe me), and has caused the right to stir up allegations of racism…well, it’s not quite so simple.  Sure, many people would love a society in which any reference to race was simply irrelevant.  But a humorous button is hardly the same thing as the systematic racism that has affected blacks since the founding of the nation (and well before).

For instance, here’s some historical differences between blacks and whites:

  • Blacks were slaves.  Whites were slave masters.
  • Black marriages were “until death or distance do you part.” White marriages were “until death do you part.”  (the reason for this was that slaves could be sold, and they might be useful to the new owner for breeding)
  • Blacks often had to sit at the back of the bus.  Whites could still decide to sit at the back of the bus, making a black stand.
  • It took the Voting Rights Act in 1964 to make good progress towards equal access to polls for blacks.  White men could vote since the founding of the country, white women could vote in 1920.
  • In 2009, the average net worth of a black household was $5,677.  The average net worth of  a white household was $113,149.
  • We’ve had 1 black president.  We’ve had 43 white presidents.

That’s a bit of difference here.  Certainly, slavery is gone, but sadly many of the problems of slavery remain.  Yet many right-wing (and nearly always white) people in my social circles are insisting that race shouldn’t matter in the election, and bringing up race is just trying to bring up racism.

But, first, the buttons.  It’s clear that whites don’t have much to seriously fear about a bunch of buttons telling us that we won’t go back to voting for white people after voting for a black one.  I suspect us white people will still have a reasonable chance of getting elected.  So, white people: grow up and get some humor.  But if the button was reversed, “once you vote white, you won’t go back,” not only would it not roll off the tongue quite as nicely, but that would be racist.  The difference is that blacks are disenfranchised at the polls and far fewer blacks are in office than one would expect based on the share they represent in the general population.  In other words, blacks already find it much more difficult than a white to get elected.  So, no, the button is not racist.

As for bringing up race, it sure sounds like we haven’t moved past that as a country.  When Martin Luther King Jr’s words, “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”  It should be noted that segregated schools are still constitutionally mandated in Alabama – a constitutional amendment that would have removed that hate from the state’s constitution failed in 2004.  (note that the segregated school requirement of the constitution is unenforceable due to Brown v Board of Education, but would become enforceable immediately should Brown ever be overturned – a hope some apparently have)  They are going to try again this year to remove some bigotry from their constitution.  Let’s hope they’ve changed a bit.

And, to answer some of my Republican friends, No, it’s not reasonable to claim Martin Luther King Jr. as a Republican.  But I’m not getting into that now.

Meanwhile, we have both Democrats and Republicans comparing things they don’t like to Nazi symbols and acts.

For instance, who could have known you could offend both Germans and Jews in about a paragraph?

Not that it’s not a good idea to give students loans, it certainly is a good idea to give them loans. But if you can ignore the Constitution to do something good today, tomorrow you will be ignoring the Constitution to do something bad. You could. There are more people in our, in America today of German ancestry than any other… . The Holocaust that occurred in Germany — how in the heck could that happen? And when you start down the wrong road, it can be a very slippery slope.

That was a “charming” statement, both equating people with German heritage as potential mass murderers (only if student loans are given by government!) and completely missing the point about the nature of the Holocaust and it’s effect on Jews and others, has been walked back a bit.  Representative Bartlett (Republican, not that it matters) has sort of apologized.

There’s real racism, and real reason for outrage.  But it’s not a bunch of off-message buttons at the Democratic convention.

Megadoses of Amino Acids!

There’s a new study, reported in the LA Times (and elsewhere), that a rare form of autism that is accompanied with epilepsy is treatable with drug store supplements.  Or something to that effect.

I admit, I haven’t read the study.  I don’t need to – I know the effect it will have.  We’re going to see protein-diets, with protein-moms arguing online about what kind of protein cured their kids.  Great.

Sure, if this study found something that helps people with their lives, helps with epilepsy, in some cases, that’s a great finding.  I will note that the study is missing one key element: people – it tested mice, which while similar to some people (oh, sorry, I was thinking rats, not mice), aren’t exactly people.  So they have a way to go.  That’s assuming it’s not another bogus study about an autism cure, like the precursor to the last 10 or so fads in autism “treatment”.

Personally I have little tolerance for this type of thing.  Oh, no, not little tolerance for helping people with epilepsy, but rather how this will be clung to by some as their hope, while they give kids who don’t have these genetic sequences a bunch of dietary supplements (or, worse, completely screw with the kid’s diet unnecessarily).  I’m assuming the study found something real – only time will tell there (and a bunch of autistics who know science way better than me will rip it apart in a few days if it’s bogus anyhow).  I also note that the researchers say this isn’t a general cure for autism (and probably say they aren’t even sure it’s a cure for whatever type of autism they are curing).  But it will be treated that way by many – mark my words.

We don’t need quack cures.  We need to have a say in our lives.  We need a place in society – whether we get cured or not.  We should be able to have some control, some ability to live our own dreams.  That’s where I’d like to see the attention.  Not a bunch of people who will be sure that their kids have that genetic sequence and will be cured by a bunch of who-knows-what purchased at the local health food store.