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Though the Indiana State Police attempt to keep track of the number of hate crimes in the state, the lack of a hate crime law allows local agencies to ignore the issue.Just 19 of Indiana’s 535 police and sheriff’s departments reported a hate crime to state authorities in 2016.Similar attempts have failed in recent years, as they have in Georgia, Arkansas, Wyoming, and South Carolina, which passed no law even in the wake of the Emanuel AME church massacre in 2015.But even in states that have these laws, hate crime convictions are rare.NAACP officials in Fort Wayne contacted the DOJ about the attack on Jason Gardner, but a DOJ spokesperson would not confirm to me whether or not they had opened an investigation into the case.Hate crime charges don’t often add significant time to a sentence.But these charges are less about prison time than about recognizing the existence of bias-fueled violence.The more hate crimes are missed, the more hidden the scope of hate in the US.
Above: Jason Gardner (center) is seen with his mother, La'Kysha Gardner (left) and brother, Amari. Eventually a white teenager was charged with assault, and he now awaits trial in a case that has exposed the racism many locals have tried to ignore.
Three days before the Gardners were set to speak at an Oct.
21 rally in support of hate crime legislation, Jason’s mother received a Facebook message from an acquaintance who had heard from members of the suspect’s family:“You might want to make sure you have a police presence on Saturday.” In August, after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and resulted in a woman’s death, state legislators in Indiana proposed a hate crime bill.
When there is not a burning cross left on the lawn or a swastika scrawled on the garage, prosecutors usually run up against the challenge of parsing an assailant’s motivations.
Many don’t want to risk an otherwise solid case by throwing in racial considerations.