Bullycide: A Hate Crime?

  • Posted: June 25, 2010 and this post was last modified April 3, 2011.

Can we liken a bully to a hater? Do we venture to call the loss of a life due to a bully the act of a hate crime? We see bullies being held more accountable for a victim taking his life nowadays, but how accountable? It is wrong to bully. It is wrong to be a bully. And it is a tragedy to see someone take their life because they were bullied to the point of feeling hopeless. But is it crime? What type of crime? Do we call it hate? Do assume a sociopath who is incapable of feeling remorse can feel hatred? And do they all fit the same mold?

Of course not. Just as one victim will not always take his life as a result of being bullied, one bully is not always being a bully because of any one reason. After all, if we could pinpoint what makes a bully a bully or why a bully is the way he is, we could just target that factor and rid the world of bullies, right? In a perfect world…

But is it hate that drives them? Or really just fear? Perhaps the desire to feel superior to others? A pure sociopath would need no real reason. No reason defined. How do we define a bully though? A sociopath is so much more, a guy with a superiority complex can be quite harmless, and kids abused at home may just act out at school. There are so many dimensions to consider, yet we often can get just one side of the story. It is easy to relate to a victim and their families because we see the helplessness that even some of us have felt at some point in life. We know the feeling of hopelessness, but we do not often relate to the extremes the victims have taken. We just know that for someone to take something so precious as the gift of life, something had to be going majorly wrong. We need someone to blame. The victim often gives us someone to blame; their notes and diaries are riddled with accounts of bullies and merciless acts against them. Their bully is identified. And we hate the bully.

Can we call bullycide a hate crime? Probably not; a bully in and of itself does not always act the way he does because he hates his victim. We can call a bully discriminative, reckless, and maybe even cold-hearted, but a hater? A bully may be far from it. It is easy to equate hate with something horrible, but we all hate; there is something about life we don’t like, something we hate to do or eat, and we may even hate a certain type of person. We just don’t act on our hate as others may. But a bully is driven more by his power over his victims than a hatred for them.

But does a hate crime have to be driven by hate to be called a hate crime? Are we getting to specific when we attribute the word ‘hate’ to a crime and then must show that it was undoubtedly driven by hate? Someone who beats up a gay man because he does not like gays can be convicted of a hate crime, but was his drive to beat the man up motivated by his hate at the time? By hate at all? Some venture to say that we hate that which we fear or that we are raised to hate certain people. So then it is not hate at all, but rather what we have grown to know. Yet we still call it a hate crime. Why? Because it was a crime based solely on a trait, orientation, or something else that a person is.

If we want to stop bullycide, we should really think about programs or ongoing methods that will help the victims and the bullies rather than trying to pinpoint a specific area, trait, or motive. Certainly nothing intangible can be completely eradicated, but the epidemic that is bullycide can surely be suppressed better than it has been, no?

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