It's sometimes hard to imagine that someone could hate you because of the color of your skin, the culture you come from, your gender or other reason. You're an individual, and you should treat all people as individuals as well.
Hate crimes aren't particularly uncommon in the United States. The country has a long history of intolerance among certain groups of people. Since that's a known factor in the country, there are hate crime laws in place to help prevent violence against certain protected classes of people.
Hate crimes are defined as being violence in relation to bigotry or intolerance. For example, intending to hurt someone or to intimidate that person because of a disability, ethnicity, national origin, sexual preferences, or race is a hate crime.
Hate crimes involve weapons. Those weapons don't necessarily injure someone, but they could. For instance, graffiti isn't likely to hurt someone, and neither can verbal threats. However, gun violence and arson are both potentially dangerous or deadly to victims.
Hate crimes do sometimes go unreported because individuals believe they won't get the help they need. This has to stop, since being unaware of violence and hate is one of the main reasons why victims aren't getting the help they need.
Participating in hate crimes has the potential to be a felony. Most hate crimes are investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which follows federal laws. If you're accused of vandalizing property or committing a hate crime, it's important to defend yourself against both state and federal charges.
Source: FindLaw, "Hate Crime: The Violence of Intolerance," accessed Dec. 11, 2017