By Gordon Davis
The mass killing at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida, has had a more profound impact on me than the mass shootings of 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut. In Newton, 20 of the victims are six- and seven-year-old children. The death of the children is so sad I find it hard to think of it even years later.
The greater impact of the Pulse night club killings is that it seemed to be a hate crime. As a boy, I was most afraid of someone harming me.
The fear of being harmed because of hatred of a protected class is something I still experience. The murder of the Black church goers in South Carolina and now the mass killings in Orlando have brought those feelings once again to the surface.
The mass murders based on protected class are like the lynchings of the 19th and 20th Centuries.
At least two people were a little disappointed in the vigil held Wednesday at Worcester City Hall. No one really talked about hate crimes or gun control.
The rally did send a good message that many in Worcester accept the LBGT community as a part of us. As one person once said to me, “I am here, I am queer. Get used to it.”
In Massachusetts a hate crime is defined in M.G. L. c. 265, s. 39. “Criminal conduct motivated by bias against one of the following protected classes is a hate crime, race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.”
Everyone has a protected class.
There are criminal and civil penalties for hate crimes.
The Attorney General of Massachusetts has been authorized to pursue legal action against those who deprive others of their civil rights through intimidation, threats, coercion or violence. The Attorney General may file a civil injunction to enforce Massachusetts civil rights laws.
The local police and district attorneys may also add a count of hate crimes to a criminal complaint.
There is a Crime Reporting Unit consisting of a joint project of the Massachusetts State Police and the Department of Justice. This reporting unit is tasked with collective data about hate crimes. The Unit is supposed to publish the report annually. The last report I could find on line was 2013.
Criminal acts based on the following biases are included in the report.
The Crimes Reporting Act covers these forms of bias:
Sexual Orientation Bias:
Anti-Other Sexual Orientation
Anti-Persons with AIDS
The 2013 report has the following information:
There were 491 criminal offenses reported in 2013, the most frequent offense was harassment (33%). Acts of vandalism were second (19.1%). General civil rights violations were third (18.9%) There were 18 aggravated assaults reported in 2013.
In 2013 prejudice against race/ethnicity or national origin was the most widely reported bias motivation, representing 49.8% of the total. Bias against sexual orientation is the second most frequent bias motivation, with 27.3% of the total. Religious bias was third with 19.1%.
Males were the most frequent victims (60.3%) and offenders (70.1%) of hate crimes. Females were victims in 39.7% of incidents. Females as a percentage of offenders were 29.9%. Whites were also the most frequent racial category as victims (51.4%), and also as offenders (62.7%). Black victims of both genders composed 38.0%% of the total victim population. Black offenders comprised 30.0% of offenders.
Victims were reported to have some type of injury in 21.8% of cases.
During the past 14 years, the numbers and the categories of bias motivations has remained fairly consistent. Between 2000 and 2002, approximately 500 bias motivations were reported each year. From 2003 through 2013, the number has declined to an average of about 350 bias motivations per year.
During this time period, the most frequently reported bias motivations have remained similar: anti-Black bias has consistently been most frequent (roughly 30% of the total), followed by anti-gay (19%), anti-Semitic (14%) and anti-White (10%).
Because of the Donald Trump and Michael Gaffney effects the statistics are likely to have changed significantly.
Since the time of the Nat Turner fight for freedom in the 19th century many in America have armed themselves against the periodic rebellions by enslaved and oppressed people. It is unlikely that this fear of mostly Black and Hispanic men will disappear until the time that economic disparities and racial injustice are eradicated.
Trump, Gaffney and the National Rifle Association have used this fear to divide us, gain power and make a profit.