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Sunday, November 22, 2020

A Need for Michigan Hate Crime Reform: Opportunities for Republican and Democrat Bi-Partisanship?

Race and disparity have been elevated onto a national platform with protests and civil unrest making headlines. Like other states, Michigan wrestles with how to navigate race, ethnic and religious based criminal acts. From attempts to abduct a sitting governor to local harassment we are stumped by profound questions of what hate means in a country that seeks to position itself at the center of global supply chains. Far Right and Far Left groups have defined the conversation on race and difference in American society while ignoring the practical middle. Taking steps to ensure that discrimination in all its forms is not holding the State of Michigan and the country back requires a level of political bi-partisanship that couldn't come at a better time to restore trust in our system.

Intro of Problem

Rise in radicalism is encouraging some aggressive personalities to commit hate crimes in an effort to mitigate some of their own empty feelings. Without cracking down on radical hate groups we may see a rise in the acceptance of aggressive behavior in other areas of society through mimicking and social learning. Polarization of our social life is creating mammoth divisions that will continue to rear their head into the future unless we are ready to accept change. The consequences low institutional trust, way of live, and our economic health rest on us grasping and overcoming large problems like this. 

Current Michigan (& Federal) Law

We can look a current laws and make a determination if they are adequate. This law seems to help define other laws in context to hate (i.e. harassment law Act 328 of 1931). Other effective laws might need to be reviewed. We may want to look at a penal code directly addressing hate. You can find here THE MICHIGAN PENAL CODE (EXCERPT) Act 328 of 1931

750.147b Ethnic intimidation.

Sec. 147b.

  (1) A person is guilty of ethnic intimidation if that person maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, does any of the following:

  (a) Causes physical contact with another person.

  (b) Damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another person.

  (c) Threatens, by word or act, to do an act described in subdivision (a) or (b), if there is reasonable cause to believe that an act described in subdivision (a) or (b) will occur.

  (2) Ethnic intimidation is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.

  (3) Regardless of the existence or outcome of any criminal prosecution, a person who suffers injury to his or her person or damage to his or her property as a result of ethnic intimidation may bring a civil cause of action against the person who commits the offense to secure an injunction, actual damages, including damages for emotional distress, or other appropriate relief. A plaintiff who prevails in a civil action brought pursuant to this section may recover both of the following:

  (a) Damages in the amount of 3 times the actual damages described in this subsection or $2,000.00, whichever is greater.

  (b) Reasonable attorney fees and costs.


Are the Laws Currently Working? 

Yes and no! Under "pristine" conditions they are effective enough to handle the more obvious cases but struggle to grasp the other forms of hate beyond physical aggression. Rewriting the laws to better ensure they more accurately reflect the realities of hate across a wider spectrum of social life. If we only focus on a small category of hate we fail to understand its full scope of the problem that is fueling unrest. People who find themselves on the receiving end are often confused on how such behaviors have become the norm in society and may ponder what the next step in human rights development may lay.

Making changes will allow us to move closer to what is called a universal justice system that is needed in a modern world of global markets with diverse participants. Our Manifest Destiny cannot be completed in so long as we grasp old worn out paradigms that hinder the development and reconciliation of our own people. Beyond the economic advantages of eradicating the wet blanket bigotry/racism have on GDP is to also fulfill the mission of our parents, grand parents and forefathers/mothers  had when got off the boat fleeing religious suppression.

When I review the Penal code above I see it focuses primarily on physical aggression which limits is application to non-physical aspects of hate. I'm not an attorney so I'm trying to understand for my interest and others may believe or not believe as they see fit.   You can see this "physicality" intention in the document such as, "Damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another person".  Yet this "physicality" may be limiting the law's application and effectiveness. 

According to a 2005 study from the Department of Justice there isn't a uniform definition of how and when to prosecute hate crimes (Shively, 2005). This means there are going to be varied responses from state to state and possibly department to department when prosecutors try and determine whether a hate crime has been committed. Some of the legal trends are to expand the definition of hate behavior by increasing penalties, expanding the scope of hate based behaviors, and better statistical reporting. 

The wording of the law limits its capacity in encouraging justice so that the population is free to pursue their own health and development. The essential goal of the basic philosophy of the founders of our country is belief in the ability of people to make choices that lead to the enhancement of themselves and a political/economic structure that supports that individualization. Change is central to any adapting system and if the U.S. is still rooted in same idealistic belief when it started we don't want to miss this opportunity to adjust closer to that end.

Is There a Cost to Bigotry and Inaction?

There is a cost to bigotry in today's society. It doesn't show up on the surface but lays just behind the belief in fair treatment that fosters belief, action and output our country now needs in our competition with China and declining world influence. Treating people as though they are different, or less worthy, in society lowers the national performance and runs counter to basic American principles. Modern societies need a modern legal understanding on how to deal with race, religion and other differences that enhances (not hinders) human performance.

There are serious costs to our economy for not standing up in favor of freedom. According to a Citigroup Study The economy has lost 16 Trillion dollars (approximately 1/20 GDP) over 20 years because of discrimination against Blacks (Peterson & Mann, 2020). It also states that there could be a $5 Trillion boost if we do not discriminate against Blacks over the next 5 years. The report doesn't discuss discrimination against other groups that would likely raise this number substantially. 

Eradicating racism and bigotry in all of its forms might have a much larger economic impact through stronger connections between working and the fruits of that labor (i.e. $30 trillion potential). I haven't seen a number out there but I'm sure there are some projections. If true we would be loosing at least 10% of our productive capacity as a direct result of discrimination and poor policies. That number likely doesn't include the major impact on the economy of not connecting performance to rewards/earnings that underpin effective capitalistic systems.

Discrimination against Blacks is a glaring example of how quickly we willing to judge others on superficial and natural variations. However, there are other groups that may have similar experiences that range from small slights and/or financial targeting all the way over to coordinated aggression . When envisioning future justice we may want to ensure that the the implied meaning of discrimination moves beyond any specific type/group of person/people to ensure relevance multidimensionality that can encompasses the different types of people in our diverse nation. 

Hate and Brain Science?

Hate is like a disease in that it derails rational thought and steals the power of empathy from people. Hate activates the pre-fontal cortex and requires a level of reasoning and rumination that make it particularly dangerous and destructive (Kiger, 2011). When a perpetrator sees (or thinks) about the target their pre-frontal cortex activates and it creates overwhelming feelings of aggression and a need for action (fight and flight). Individuals in an aroused state (process 1: fight or flight) may not be able to think clearly until a more distant state (process 2: rational thought).

Because hate is associated with a distorted image of others it often ends up being justified in the perpetrators head. There is projection of internal emotional distortion onto an incorrect image of other people often leading to one or another form of aggression. Without adjusting our laws we are not accurately reflecting the nature of hate and how it functions within the brain. While physical assault may be prosecuted as a hate crime it appears fairly powerless to deal with the broader conditioning and exhibited behaviors of hate.

 What Happens When We Don't Hold Hate Crimes Accountable?

Trust in our government and its legal infrastructure declines when racism/ bigotry are seen as inherent and widespread but not addressed seriously. As a result of trust declining in our institutions we may also experience increased partisanship and radicalism as the central beliefs that hold us together as a nation are pushed aside. You can see the pillars of society eroding when people begin to cannibalize their own society instead of relying on these institutions to help uphold central American values.

The Pew Research center published a large survey indicating that over the last 20 years trust in others and government has been on the decline. They further indicate that 75% believe that trust in government is declining while another 64% indicate trust in each other is declining (Lee, R. & Perrin, A., 2019). The reasons they cite is corruption, corporations, discrimination, poor management, etc... The good news is that 84% believe we can turn around the distrust of government and 86% believe we can improve distrust in each other if we focus on handling problems in our communities. 

Being a victim of hate crimes is horrific enough but when these crimes happen with particular callousness and the perpetrators are not held to account it furthers those divisions in society. We are not necessarily talking so much about an individual account but series of accounts experienced by a broad section of society. We have the opportunity to understand hate better and use science to guide our legislative practices to align our laws to long term goals that are in the benefit of ALL society. Without evidence based management practices as central to our decisions the loudest voices in the room often lead us down the path of national decline and increased partisan conflict.

How Can a Research Approach the Situation?

If someone were to conduct research into the wording of Michigan hate laws they may want to conduct a review of other successful/unsuccessful legal practices. With any study you will want to grasp current understanding by reviewing as many different sources as possible that relate to this law, how the language impacts its effectiveness and current societal trends to understand how new laws should be applied.

1.) Conduct background/literature search to understand current scientific theories.

2.) Review and categorize the differences.

3.) See what information is available on crime statistics, prosecution rates, state demographics, etc...(whatever seems relevant) and see if any of the information leads to some type of insight into the success or failure of "opening" up the hate crime definition. 

4.) Consider from that search and analysis the best terms to include for effective prosecution of hate crimes. 

5.) Check with leaders of different backgrounds to better assess concerns about adjustments.

6.) Look at the long term economic, social and strategic objectives of the nation and ensure making changes puts us in a stronger place. 

7.) Create proper metrics that raise validity of hate crime statistics. 

We have the Michigan Department of Civil  that investigates hate based crimes.

The FBI also has statistics on Michigan hate crimes.

Politics is making headlines as of recent times and there is much we can learn about our governmental processes and how current debates on discrimination influence policy.  While there may be political divisions on how something is done there should not be divisions in our fundamental truths as a society. Effective strategy engages people that desire to enact the strategies that lead to innovating our state and improving our governmental practices for the betterment of the most amount of people. 

Charged with the sacred duty of societal development we have the Executive (Governor Gretchen Whitmer/Democrat), Legislative Branch (Lee Chatfield Republican-Speaker of the House & Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey) and the Judicial/Enforcement (Semi-Independent w/ Attorney General Dana Nessel/Democrat). Each of the members are part of either a Red/Blue party that define themselves in opposition to each other that risks misguided anchoring of decisions that derail evidence based decision making.

As society developed our institutions developed to better managed large groups of people in a way that fosters human life. Every society has one form or another of these institutions because it is fundamental to the health of our organism. Each of these entrusted officials have a responsibility to use society's resources and political capital to push society toward higher forms of existence. This is one of those moments in history where working together is going to be much more fruitful than working against each other.

There is this type of power balance between these different branches and some serious disagreements based on their political affiliations and personal dispositions. At the end of the day, we must continue to push our nation forward to change, adjust, and adapt to the environment in which we live. We are in a global world and may want to consider how our basic American principles (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness) helps us develop the talent we need to compete (and collaborate) for future security. We can't get there unless human capital is maximized through removing discrimination and implementing principles of universal justice.

Resources: 

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (1999). Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines. 

U.S. Government (2012). https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2011-title18/html/USCODE-2011-title18-partI-chap13-sec249.htm

American Psychological Association (n.d.) The Psychology of Hate Crimes

para 1. Retrieved 11-19-20 https://www.apa.org/advocacy/interpersonal-violence/hate-crimes

Patrick J. Kiger "How Hate Works" 16 May 2011. HowStuffWorks.com. <https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/hate.htm> 18 November 2020

Lee, R. & Perrin, A. (July 22, 2019). Key findings about Americans’ declining trust in government and each other. Pew Research Center. Retrieved November 18, 2020 https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/22/key-findings-about-americans-declining-trust-in-government-and-each-other/

Shively, M. (2005). Study of Literature and Legislation on Hate Crime in America (Document No. 210300). U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved November 21st, 2020 https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/210300.pdf

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