Why Are There Different Consequences For Hate Crimes?
You are walking down the street one evening and you pass another gentleman who is obviously intoxicated. Out of nowhere he sucker punches you in the face and you fall to the ground.
Question 1: Is this a hate crime?
After he punches you and you are on the ground he says “take that you fucking fa@@ot”!
Question 2: Is this now a hate crime because he used the word “fa@@ot”?
Question 3: What if he was just using a derogatory, emasculating term (like many of us men do) and knew nothing of your sexuality? Is this still a hate crime?
Question 4: Better yet, what if he is black and you are black and while laying on the ground he says “take that ni@@a”. Is this still a hate crime?
In crime and law, hate crimes (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity.
A hate crime is a category used to describe bias-motivated violence: “assault, injury, and murder on the basis of certain personal characteristics: different appearance, different color, different nationality, different language, and different religion.”
So if said assailant in my above scenario just regularly punched you in the face and didn’t hatefully punch you in the face, his penalties and consequences under the law may be lesser. Why is this okay?
I understand the intent of hate crime laws and punishment. They are to help prevent crimes against members in certain racial groups, religious groups, sexual orientation, etc. but there are already laws and penalties locally and nationally on the books for individuals who commit violent crimes.
If a man hates his ex-wife because she cheated on him, divorced him and left him in shambles and he decides to kill her; how is that different than a white man killing a black woman because he hates her? These are both crimes that resulted from the hatred the men felt. Both murdered women were targeted for a hateful reason.
These groups of people are regular people, so why not enforce the laws that were already there to protect everyone under these categories in the first place? Doesn’t this alienate the groups you are attempting to protect thus potentially making them more hated or more of a target? Could this be an unintended consequence of hate crime law?
Hate crime law is a law intended to prevent bias-motivated violence. How can a law prevent someone from thinking hatefully and preventing the violence that may result from the hateful thoughts? In my opinion, rarely do laws and their penalties stop a populace from committing violent crimes on one another.
While a “crime” might not have occurred at all if the victim had not have been of a certain race, religion or sexual orientation; the resulting offensive violent action still is a crime regardless of the victim’s race, religion or sexual orientation.
Why not punish the action and the crime versus punishing the person’s thoughts regardless of how offensive they may be?
A part of me does feels that the motivation behind the crime should be taken into consideration.
For example, me being negligent for running a red traffic light and killing a man by accident is not the same as a Nazi Skinhead running a red traffic light to run over a black man with the intentions of killing him based on his skin color. But does the latter example need a “special” law to prosecute the Nazi Skinhead? Why can’t he just be prosecuted to the fullest extent based off the laws that are already established? Should the penalties be lesser if the same Nazi Skinhead ran over his white ex-wife?
From the FBI’s Website…
Crimes of hatred and prejudice—from lynchings to cross burnings to vandalism of synagogues—are a sad fact of American history, but the term “hate crime” did not enter the nation’s vocabulary until the 1980s, when emerging hate groups like the Skinheads launched a wave of bias-related crime.
The FBI began investigating what we now call hate crimes as far back as World War I, when the Ku Klux Klan first attracted our attention. Today, we remain dedicated to working with state and local partners to prevent these crimes and to bring to justice those who commit them.
I know so far it may seem like my thoughts on heavily weighted towards “there should not be a thing as hate crime laws” but then I think about James Byrd and Matthew
But than I also have to stop and think about Trayvon Martin. How did hate crime laws prevent his death?
“a man should not be judged by his skin color but by the content of his character.” Marin Luther King Jr.
That same logic should be applied to crime and punishment. These hate crime laws are judging people by the color of their skin and the group they belong to. Why are we okay with this?
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