Raising Awareness: The Growing Normalization of Hate Crimes
BY ANUSHA SENAPATI '24
Think about the last time you scrolled through social media and encountered news of a recent social catastrophe. I’m guessing it wasn’t so long ago. Now, consider what you did with that information: some of us have probably guiltily scrolled past or maybe even ignored it. Though hate crimes are now shared more frequently on social media, normalization of hate crimes rises with their increased visibility, blurring the line between allyship and performative activism.
Interestingly, our favorite celebrities play a large role in the normalization of hate crimes. With accounts racking up millions of followers on social media, many influencers feel pressured to post information about recent events, regardless of their knowledge or comfort level in the subject matter. This produces mixed results, including comparison and backlash. For instance, when fans compared posts from Kylie Jenner and Selena Gomez, they noticed that Gomez used her platform to repost Black Lives Matter events while Jenner did not. As a result, many criticized Jenner for being less “useful” than Gomez.
There are several issues with sharing hate crime information on social media—namely, performative activism, or supporting a cause for attention rather than for creating real change. Influencers repost information for recognition while a movement is at its height, but quickly return to their everyday lives (and posts) when action deescalates, with “normal” social media users following suit. While sharing on social media can be helpful, it is important to take a step back and remember why we should raise awareness for hate crimes: to address the systemic roots of hate and dismantle them.
Further, stereotypes perpetuated by popular media contributes to the normalization of hate crimes. Stereotypes desensitize us to hate crimes by reinforcing falsehoods about a marginalized group. For example, popular TV shows have historically portrayed Black people to be criminals, constructing a stereotype that leads some to believe that they cannot be trusted and are violent. Over time, our perception of people is skewed by these generalizations that ignore people’s intersectional and multifaceted identities. The media’s stereotypes are especially dangerous for impressionable youth as they normalize black-and-white categories and discrimination. As people lose their ability to distinguish between what is “normal” and right, they often attribute the hate crime to a victim’s inherent criminality rather than seeing it for what it is: a crime that resulted in the loss of human life.
Along the same lines, public sympathy for perpetrators of hate crimes reveals how deeply entrenched the normalization of hate crimes has become. On March 16, Robert Aaron Long murdered six innocent Asian people. Although the event was horrific and garnered national attention, people began to sympathize with Long. Excuses for his behavior started from mental health to the idea that he was simply having “a bad day.” It is blatantly problematic to excuse murder—especially when racism and deliberate intention is involved. Additionally, contemplating a murderer’s mentality also takes the focus off of the minorities—the victims of hate crimes—and the need for education, which can prevent future hate crimes.
The pitfalls of activism on social media, stereotyping, and ignorance to minority groups’ struggles have directly and indirectly normalized hate crimes. Not only do these hate crimes harm minorities, but they also affect generations of young people’s perceptions of how they should react to discrimination and hate.
To effectively combat hate, there are several steps you can take, such as spreading accurate and helpful information, keeping an open mind about minorities’ challenges, and looking at the media's depiction of hate crimes critically. Additionally, remind yourself that seemingly insignificant stereotypes can be incredibly harmful, and catch yourself when you make judgements based on bias. Such steps will ultimately lead us towards a society, where hopefully, the normalization of hate crimes decreases.