Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

May 24, 2007

Hate Crime Laws: Do We Need Them?

Filed under: politics — codesmithy @ 5:26 am

There is a common assertion that a crime is a crime? Why does it matter what the motive of crime was, justice should be blind, or at least color blind.

At an earlier point in my life I agreed, but I’ve come to a different conclusion since then. Hate crimes are necessary because we don’t live in an equal society. Minorities are discriminated against. To throw out the vast history and experience and act like today is a new day, a Monday morning, where all past sins are forgiven and forgotten is to be blind of reality and history.

Since much of modern controversy surrounds black and white relations, I will be primarily concerned with this history as opposed to gay, Jewish, or Latino/a. The immediate history of our modern situation is the civil rights movement and the Nadir of American race relations (warning: graphic) that came about “19th century and the beginning of the 20th.” We had a situation in the United States where black people were being lynched (warning: graphic) openly.

When you look at the photos, particularly the last one, get past the grotesque wonder of the spectacle and start asking questions. Such as, why are there people around? Usually killers hide a body, these are out in the open with lots of people around. The couple, where the boy is grinning holding the girl’s thumb, are they on a date? Why are there women around at all? Then there are the two black men hanging from the tree, what type of hell did they go through before they met their end?

The simple fact of the matter is that white people had a confidence that they wouldn’t be convicted of the crime of killing a black man, no matter how much evidence was placed before the jury. This could be because law enforcement had ties to the KKK in many instances that made for weak evidence collection to the fact that it only takes one stubborn person on the jury to cause a mistrial. Justice and injustice worked one way, for whites against blacks. As much as we’d like to think we have progressed, the reality is that for many, the day to day realities have remained unchanged.

Hate crimes seek to harness the fear of the very real and vast injustice of the past. We owe it to the victims of crimes that went unpunished in the past that their memory isn’t a tool of fear in the present. A hate crime to me is not one on a white man against a black man. It is a white man against a black man invoking unpunished crimes of the past to instill fear in a whole community. Yes, it generally works one way. The vast multitude of injustice went one way also. It is one thing to have not punished those crimes in the past. It is quite another to allow someone to profit from it currently. The hope of the criminal to additionally profit cannot be ignored in their punishment.

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