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Tough on Hate?

The Cultural Politics of Hate Crimes

Clara S. Lewis

Publication Year: 2013

Why do we know every gory crime scene detail about such victims as Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. and yet almost nothing about the vast majority of other hate crime victims? Now that federal anti-hate-crimes laws have been passed, why has the number of these crimes not declined significantly? To answer such questions, Clara S. Lewis challenges us to reconsider our understanding of hate crimes. In doing so, she raises startling issues about the trajectory of civil and minority rights.

Tough on Hate is the first book to examine the cultural politics of hate crimes both within and beyond the law. Drawing on a wide range of sources—including personal interviews, unarchived documents, television news broadcasts, legislative debates, and presidential speeches—the book calls attention to a disturbing irony: the sympathetic attention paid to certain shocking hate crime murders further legitimizes an already pervasive unwillingness to act on the urgent civil rights issues of our time. Worse still, it reveals the widespread acceptance of ideas about difference, tolerance, and crime that work against future progress on behalf of historically marginalized communities.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Critical Issues in Crime and Society

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

The ideas that shape this book have evolved in conversation with many wonderful, thoughtful people. Among the scholars who have informed the direction of this book, I am particularly indebted to professors from George Washington University’s American studies and sociology departments, namely Thomas Guglielmo, William Chambliss, Ivy Leigh Ken, Melani McAlister, and Joseph Kip Kosek, and...

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1. Introduction: The Cultural Politics of Hate Crimes

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pp. 1-22

It is tempting to begin a book on hate crimes with violence. The words themselves, “hate” and “crime,” evoke images of the most heinous acts of prejudicial assault. Within the U.S. mainstream cultural imagination, sadism, Nazism, and white power dramatize hate crimes stories. In considering the problem, we are invited to recall the same select few victims’...

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2. The Invention of Hate Crimes

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pp. 23-44

Peruse any college-level U.S. history textbook and you are likely to see examples of targeted violence against minority groups, including Native American removal, African slavery, and Japanese internment. In this expansive sense, hate crimes can be understood as a deeply seated, perhaps even universal, aspect of social life. Broadly, hate crimes erupt at the intersection of...

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3. The Nation and Post-Difference Politics

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pp. 45-64

Unlike other vexing social problems, hate crimes have been burdened with the chore of telling us who we are as Americans. “We can embody our values by passing hate crime laws,” urged Vice President Al Gore. “[Hate crimes are] not the American way,” asserted President Bill Clinton in his 2000 State of the Union Address. More recently, President Barack...

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4. Cultural Criminalization and the Figure of the Hater

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pp. 65-88

In his foundational study of deviance in Puritan New England, Wayward Puritans, sociologist Kai Erikson explodes the seeming divide between the figure of the conformist and the figure of the deviant. “The deviant and the conformist,” states Erikson, “are creatures of the same culture, inventions of the same imagination.”1 Erikson’s choice of the words “invention” and...

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5. Hate Crime Victimhood and Post-Difference Citizenship

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pp. 89-108

On January 16, 1992, the New York Times published an article titled “Young Bias-Attack Victim Tries to Laugh Off the Pain.” Twelve-year-old Bryan Figuero was the young victim. “On his way to school on Monday morning,” reported journalist Maria Newman, “[Figuero] was set upon by several teen-agers who roughed him up and smeared his face with...

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6. Epilogue: Challenging Hate Crimes on a Cultural Front

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pp. 109-126

In 2005, artist Mary Coble stripped down to the plainest white underwear ever manufactured and stoically endured twelve straight hours of inkless tattooing. The ordeal, or more judiciously “endurance performance,” titled Note to Self, was staged in Washington, D.C., at Conner Contemporary Art, a gallery that focuses on conceptual art in nontraditional...

Appendix: Methods and Sources

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pp. 127-128


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pp. 129-144


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pp. 145-152

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About the Author, Other Works in the Series

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pp. 153-156

Clara S. Lewis currently teaches at Stanford University. She has published articles on hate crimes, vinyasa yoga, and mechanization at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. She is beginning new research on the legacy of eugenics in the...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813562322
E-ISBN-10: 0813562325
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813562315
Print-ISBN-10: 0813562317

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Critical Issues in Crime and Society