House Bill 354, otherwise known as the Hate Crime Prevention Act, was reintroduced in the North Carolina House of Representatives this past March. This is the bill’s third proposal since 2018; however, with it only being favored by Democratic legislators, it is not clear if the bill will pass when it reaches the House floor. The act aims to “ensure protections based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and disability” according to North Carolina Senator Valerie Foushee’s website. This bill will create a felony offense for hate crimes, a new reporting protocol for police and require training on hate crimes for prosecutors and law enforcement officers.
The Hate Crime Prevention Act was created to combat hate crime perpetrators and inaccurate reporting for statewide hate crimes in North Carolina. As it stands, North Carolina has yet to pass a hate crime bill that will justly and fairly protect minority communities. Additionally, HB 354 would protect members of the LGBTQ+ community since there are currently no laws to protect citizens from hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Department of Justice also reported that in 2019, 62.6% of hate crimes in North Carolina were based on race, ethnicity or ancestry. This bill provides legal protection for many communities in North Carolina that are the targets of hate crimes in the state.
One group that has seen a rise in hate crimes is the Jewish community. Though only 0.4% of North Carolina’s population is Jewish, hundreds of antisemitic incidents are reported each year. From 2020 to 2021, 229 antisemitic incidents were reported in North Carolina. These incidents include propaganda, vandalism and harassment, and nine of these incidents took place in Raleigh according to the Anti Defamation League (ADL). Some of these incidents include white supremacist propaganda being distributed throughout North Carolina, inciting fear and hatred toward minority groups, “swastikas and racial epithets” found on a UNC campus and hate-based harassment in Chapel Hill. Though civilians may report antisemitic crimes to the ADL, North Carolina officers are not required to report hate crimes, which impacts the accurate count of incidents in the state.
To ensure your opinions about HB 354 are heard, contact your local representatives.
By Angelina Morin, Contributing Writer