Where is the love?

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Where is the love?

Safiya Amin, Web/Social Media Editor

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A shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh claimed 11 lives. The 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville  claimed one. A racially-motivated attack in a Kentucky supermarket claimed another two. There have been countless incidents of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti around the country—including within Westfield Public Schools. These incidents are prejudice-motivated crimes which occur when perpetrators target a victim because of his or her membership to a certain social group or race. Put more simply, these are hate crimes.

With the rise of bigoted and hate-fueled speech by people in powerful positions, it’s not hard to see why these crimes are increasing. According to a report by the FBI in November, hate crimes in 2017 in the U.S. increased by 17 percent in comparison with 2016. And those are just the numbers of reported incidents of hate crimes—which means that there are many more nationwide that go unreported.

But why the sudden rise in prejudicially motivated crimes?

Many perpetrators of hate crimes believe that they now have a platform to voice their hatred of people without punishment. The most prominent example of this was when President Donald Trump did not condemn the actions of the alt-right at the Charlottesville rally, which resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Instead, he stated that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Furthermore, those who commit hate crimes believe it is their First Amendment right to voice their outrage towards people that they hate. And when the president seemingly accepts this behavior, it becomes easier to carry out these acts of hate.

However, these justifications do not work for me. The First Amendment does provide for freedom of speech, but it does not protect hate speech. I believe that the usage of the First Amendment in order to justify the spreading of bigotry and hate infringes on the foundations of what this country stands for.

When the diverse, melting-pot ideal that this country was founded upon is attacked rather than celebrated, we need to come together and realize that there is a problem in the foundations of our society. If there were greater consequences from people in positions of power and from us as a society, then maybe people would find it harder to commit such horrific acts of hatred.