Federal and local authorities in Kansas are currently trying to determine if the Feb. 22 shooting of Indian engineers Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani by Adam W. Purinton should qualify as a “possible hate crime.”
But when a man walks into a bar, singles out two racially distinct individuals, shouts slurs against their ethnicity, takes out a gun and shoots them, it is not a “possible hate crime;” it is a hate crime, plain and simple.
And sadly, hate crimes are on the rise, not only in the United States, but worldwide.
Whether they be in the form of vandalism, verbal harassment, threats or — as in the case of Kuchibhotla and Madasani — murder, hate crimes constitute an affront to all humanity and are a violation of internationally accepted basic values of civic respect and tolerance.
At the root of most hate crimes is ignorance and suspicion of those with other nationalities, race, faith or cultural identities.
Distorted ethnic stereotypes and bigoted intolerance beget irrational disdain and dogmatic Jim Crowism, none of which has a place in modern global societies.
In the first month of 2017, the incidence of hate crimes in the United States soared by 6 percent compared to the same period a year ago, according to a recent FBI report.
And, for the record, there is plenty of hate to go around, targeting Muslims, Jews, Christians, blacks, Mexicans, Asians, the handicapped, gays, transgender people, women, conservatives, liberals and just about every other conceivable ethnic, cultural or political group.
Crimes committed against people because of their identity are especially deplorable because they foment divisiveness and the corrosion of social order, which in turn spurs further violence and hatred.
Any act of aggression or violence motivated by racism or animosity toward some other group constitutes a hate crime, and when membership in a particular organization, association or ethnicity is the object of a crime, all other group members become victims by extension because they are forced to live in fear that they too may soon be targeted.
Consequently, hate crimes are acts of terrorism, and are no less horrifying than a bombing of an international airport in Istanbul or the assault of a speeding truck mowing down civilians along a beachside promenade in Nice.
Hate crimes have an inherent added culpability due to their intent to instill terror, and therefore rightfully receive heavier punishments than comparable non-hate crimes.
By dispensing harsher punishments for hate crimes, governments underscore the fact that such acts of evil and dark-mindedness are more heinous and more dangerous to the global social fabric, and will not be tolerated.
Moreover, racial, ethnic or religious incitement, exclusion, bias and prejudice are the key elements for incubating terror, and they plant the mutant seeds of political destabilization and social disintegration.
Last week’s shootings in Olathe, Kansas, constitute a hate crime, and nothing less.
And, like all hate crime, they should raise a red flag of alarm against the mounting bane of odium, ignorance and marginalization that is taking hold around the world.
Only by identifying these abhorrent acts for what they real are can we begin to counteract the malevolence they comprise.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]