Punishing Racial Discrimination and Hate Crimes

Erik Bleich

in The Freedom to Be Racist?

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199739684
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199914579 | DOI:
Punishing Racial Discrimination and Hate Crimes

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It is tempting to assume that liberal democracies have always targeted racial discrimination and hate crimes for specific punishment. But meaningful laws only materialized starting in the 1960s and 1980s respectively. This chapter focuses first on the development of American anti-discrimination laws in the 1960s and hate crime laws in the 1980s and 1990s. Looking closely at this history shows how the country most committed to freedom in some domains was the quickest to forego it in others, and just how extensive its laws against racist opinion-as-motive have become. It then turns to developments in Europe. Many European governments have followed in the United States’ footsteps by establishing laws against racial discrimination and hate crimes, although seldom with similar vigor. Looking in depth at the United States, Britain, and Germany demonstrates the origins, spread, and limits of penalizing racist opinion-as-motive in liberal democracies. Ultimately, this chapter also reveals the internal tensions and transnational differences among countries that attempt to balance upholding freedom and fighting racism in a variety of domains.

Keywords: freedom of opinion; racism; discrimination; hate crime; United States; Britain; Germany

Chapter.  10870 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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