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While hate crimes may tend to be less routine and more violent than discriminatory traffic stops, closer examination of each shows the need to complicate our understanding of both. The work of social scientists who have studied racial profiling reveals striking similarities and connections between these two practices. In particular, both hate crimes and racial profiling tend to be condemned only at extremes, in situations where they appear to be irrational and excessive, but overlooked in cases where they seem logical or are expected. The tendency to see only the most extreme cases as problematic, however, fails to recognize that neither practice is as marginal as it might seem. Both forms of discrimination are strongly influenced by a social context that has designated certain social groups as the accepted or "suitable" targets for ill treatment. They both reflect especially strongly the myth that certain groups are prone to criminality or deviance. In turn, the perpetration of both practices also reinforces both the suitable target designation and myth of criminal propensity by influencing the perceptions and behavior of both members and non-members of vulnerable groups.

By pointing out the parallels and connections between the two practices, I do not mean to suggest that the legal responses to hate crimes and racial profiling should be the same. Rather, I suggest that the legal responses to each should take account of the ways in which that practice both influences and is influenced by the larger social context, as well as how it relates to discrimination, in contexts such as education and employment, that denies some groups equal access to fair treatment and opportunity.