When a Facebook Live broadcast captured the torture of a Chicago-area special-needs teen, the incident shined a light on the nature of hate crimes. What exactly happened, and are there any practical steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from hate crimes?
According to a CNN report, four African-American youths between the ages of 18 and 24 received charges for a range of crimes in their connection with the kidnapping and abuse of a white special-needs teen in Chicago.
The teen met up with Jordan Hill, a school acquaintance of his, on New Year’s Eve. When the teen’s parents did not hear from him for a few days, they reported him missing on Monday, Jan. 2.
After driving around for several days in a stolen van, Hill took the teen to the Chicago apartment of Brittany and Tanishia Covington. The group tied up the teen in the apartment, brutally abused him, and shouted hate-filled language as they streamed the abuse using Facebook Live from the apartment. Phrases such as “F— Donald Trump!” and “F— white people” are heard on the video.
While the assailants repeatedly punched and kicked the teen, Brittany Covington streamed the attack and begged for more attention on Facebook. When another resident in the apartment building called 911 to complain about the noise, the police responded to the call and found the battered and confused teen on the street.
Suspects Charged With a Hate Crime
The four suspects – including Hill, Brittany and Tanishia Covington, and Tesfaye Cooper – have been charged with felony aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and a hate crime. The hate crime charge stems from the nature of the assault.
What is a hate crime, exactly? The
City of Chicago’swebsite states that hate crimes are “acts of bigotry, and are committed because of the intended victim’s actual or perceived ancestry, color, creed, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability (including HIV status), or national origin.” Hate crimes are violent acts attached to a specific hate motive.
Officials charged the suspects in the Chicago incident with a hate crime, not only because of the racial comments in the video, but also because the suspects tied up a victim who had a diminished mental capacity. A
Chicago Patch.com reportstated, “Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters during a news conference (Jan. 5) that there was never any question that hate crime charges would be brought against the suspects.”
Because of the race-related nature of the crime in Chicago, some have accused the group Black Lives Matter (BLM) of supporting or being involved in the incident. However, according to CNN, police stated that they found no connection between Black Lives Matter and the actions of the four young people who kidnapped the teen.
A former Chicago police officer further dismissed the idea that BLM maintained connections with the attack. Former Chicago police officer Dimitri Roberts stated, “This is hate. And hate doesn’t have a color. So for folks to talk about this is somehow connected to Black Lives Matter is absolutely the wrong way to look at this. … And we cannot respond to hate with hate. It’s just going to perpetuate the cycle.”
Bullying and Cyberbullying: An Ongoing Problem
Bullying, cyberbullying, and hate crimes are discrete entities, but they may be manifested simultaneously at times, as the incident in Chicago illustrates. The horrific images that were broadcast on Facebook Live bring attention to these sobering issues.
According to statistics posted on
Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center’s website, nearly one out of four students report being bullied during the school year. However, that figure may grossly underestimate bullying and its prevalence. Another statistic estimates that 64 percent of bullied children do not report what happens to them.
Cyberbullying is another problem that has gained much attention in recent years. Cyberbullying encompasses a range of unkind online acts, from sending threatening emails to harassing people using social media. While the incident in Chicago may not fall under the strictest definition of cyberbullying – since cyberbullying does not include physical assaults – it does call attention to the power of the internet to encourage hate and abuse. According to one estimate, more than half of teens and adolescents were victims of online bullying.
Bullying and cyberbullying can occur for any number of reasons, but these incidents are usually due to personal assaults and not related to hate. Hate crimes are particularly troubling because they stem from factors that should have minimal impact on how people see one another, such as race, religion, gender identity, or disability. According to statistics from the FBI, close to 6,000 single-bias incidents occurred in 2015. A single-bias incident is an offense, or a series of offenses by the same suspect, motivated by the same bias.
Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones From Hate Crimes
Regardless of your race, religion, or gender identity, you should take proper precautions to protect yourself and your family from hate crimes.
Investigate your children’s acquaintances or anyone else with whom you or your family members regularly associate with. This statement isn’t to say that you should immediately suspect that anyone of a different race is harboring hate. You can discreetly access
criminal arrest recordson anyone when you turn to a reputable criminal background check service.
You can also be careful when you’re making posts on social media. A well-intentioned opinion could easily be misconstrued or misinterpreted.
Manage your online reputationby regularly checking your privacy settings, performing frequent self-searches, and always striving to create a positive online image. Keep a close watch on what your children do online. Immediately warn them if they post something that could be taken the wrong way.
No foolproof method for preventing hate crimes exists, and this problem may persist well into the future. However, by being aware of the social issues that instigate these crimes and taking measures to protect yourself, you can be part of the solution.