Institutional Hate Crimes

Institutional Hate Crimes 

What are institutional hate crimes? We are not talking about what are currently violations of the law, but rather the violation of the spirit of civil rights laws at many levels. These violations take many forms including hidden agendas, personal indifference and institutional biased. They allow attitudes to overwhelm facts.

Institutional hate crimes result in overwhelming unemployment rates among the disabled, unequal police practices in minority communities and the promotion of out dated institutional thinking across many industries. They are crimes of the spirit that are another blight on American freedom that find their routes in the healthy white male supremacy movement.

Institutional hate crimes take place when the eyes and ears (the employees) of an institution like a business or a government agency know that something wrong is going on and they do nothing. They protect the institution not the victims. They are immoral crimes that are right in front of us every day. When will we call them out for what they are?

Who are the victims of institutional hate crimes? They are the women and yes, men who endure uninvited sexual advances and worse. They are the minority employees passed over in favor of a white or able-bodied coworker. They are the people with disabilities who are unemployed because a department manager will not spend the money to make the workplace accessible even when it is available in the budget.

Institutional hate crimes become institutionalized when the actions or lack of action put the entity ahead of the law, the common good and most especially the person. They become hate when good people do nothing to right the wrong. Because all it has ever taken to begin changing an institution is a few good people. They become a crime when the wrong has become institutionalized to the point that it is de-facto policy existing even though it is counter to the law in fact or spirit.

Perhaps we have reached a point in human affairs where we must publicly recognize that such actions or inactions are institutional hate crimes. After all such indifference shocks us when it leaks out into public view. 

As modern Americans we like to think such things no longer exist, but we know they do. If they did not then the unemployment rate among the disabled would no longer be 70%, Racial tensions would no longer weaken the fabric of the culture and sexual preference uninvited advances, or abuse of many kinds would no longer be the factors they are. If such indifference did not exist then we would not need whistleblower laws, investigative journalism or anonymous hotlines. 

Institutional hate crimes related to the employment of people with disabilities are often excused by pointing to cost. This as if a lack of funds is a legitimate reason for denying a person’s civil rights. The institution legally knows this is not an acceptable excuse but people within the entity often think they know better and that is based on their own personal bias and even prejudiced. 

Such institutional hate crimes take place even when budget is available and even when the institution is aware of the needs in advance. The Access Ready initiative is designed to shed further light on needs and how institutions can save money by being ready in advance. 

Institutional hate crimes that relate to sexual misconduct, cultural, racial, religious or other workplace issues are even harder to overcome because they are imbedded in the culture. They are supported by the silent indifference of white male supremacy. 

The term institutional hate crimes may be new to the ears of most, but I suspect that many of us know what they are and recognize them when we think about it. It is time that we all push toward a tipping point where good people will act to end them. Change is difficult and the phrase “We don’t do it that way” is often the statement that begins the process of installing the attitudes that lead to these kinds of crimes against what we know to be right. We are not seeking the upending of institutions, but rather the incorporation of right into the thinking of those who run them.

It is time for each of us to take an unyielding position that commits to publicly outing such institutional hate crimes. Many will be afraid to do this from their own position for fear of their job. They must find a way to tell someone what is going on. 

We must unite to bring all such issues into the light of truth. It is not just about what affects me as a person who is blind. It must be about those things that affect others as well. 

Chairman, Douglas George Towne

Disability Relations Group


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