Electronic Thesis/Dissertation


Tough on Hate? Addressing Hate Crimes in a Post-Difference Society Open Access

In Tough on Hate?, I analyze the cultural politics of hate crimes across a range of social fields, primarily news media production and national politics, and to a lesser extent law making, advocacy, and academia. Counterintuitively, I observe that mainstream discursive performances about hate crimes tend to undercut the salience of contemporary minority and civil rights concerns. These widely distributed depictions not only narrowly define bigotry as a law enforcement problem, they also create opportunities to celebrate American exceptionalism and tolerance, further stigmatize the white underclass, and give voice to members of minority groups who actively disavow identity politics. In each of these three areas, individuals and organizations that are defined by their recognition of ascriptive differences -- including both white supremacists and minority rights advocates -- are marginalized through demonization, criminalization or, more subtly, invisibility. In grappling with the significance of these findings, I develop the construct post-difference ideology. Post-difference ideology describes the cultural tendency to condemn hate crimes in terms that disavow the continued significance of ascriptive differences. The saturation of post-difference ideology within mainstream representations of hate crimes has implications for how hate crimes are understood as a policy field, political issue, news theme, and site of minority and civil rights activism. I surmise that anti-hate crimes legislation functions as a sound criminal justice practice while representations of hate crimes share the same damning consequences for minorities as other expressions of color-blind racism, new homophobia, and Anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment. The dualistic cultural tendency to condemn hate crimes while ignoring these crimes' social and historical imbrications indicates that the ideological pattern termed "new racism" has come to characterize, not only racial thinking, but also other forms of identity-based difference and even mainstream efforts to combat bigotry. The result being that the bigotry manifest in hate crimes is unequivocally defined as criminal, while the differences that initiated these crimes in the first place are rendered moot. Bigotry appears deviant, while the status of being in a minority group is viewed as either neutral or irrelevant. The myth of the color-blind society transmogrifies within these narratives into the myth of the post-difference society. As a transdisciplinary endeavor, Tough on Hate? contributes to ongoing conversations within scholarship on the post-civil rights era, race-class-gender studies, and hate crimes studies. Beyond academia, my dissertation speaks to minority and civil rights advocates interested in cultural futures for anti-hate crimes policy. Ultimately, this dissertation generates new theory on the role of political discourse and cultural production in reifying the post-civil rights era's identity-based social harms.

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