Hate Crimes Are Evil

I used to be conflicted about hate crimes legislation because it seemed to me that it should be sufficient to make the assault illegal. What separate harm is done when someone wants to hurt someone because they are gay that isn’t present when hurting someone because they are dating your ex-girlfriend?

Answer: Hate crimes are directed at terrorizing a class of people in addition to the specific member being assaulted.

Also, because hate crimes represent a national problem, they are appropriate federal legislation. We as a country need to work to end terrorizing minority groups.

That is exactly what the Matthew Shepard Act intends to do.

Here’s a mini-film you can watch if it is your thing.

Here’s the text of the legislation if that’s your thing.

There is a horrible lie circulating that this bill will cause pastors who want to advocate for the damnation of people who are gay to be prosecuted by this bill. Here’s what you have to do to fall under the Act:

willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person

So, I suppose if the preacher could literally preach fire and brimstone into being and onto gay people he could be prosecuted. Otherwise I think the small-minded hate mongers are safe.

Call your Senators and tell them to support this bill, please. I left messages with McCain’s office and Kyle’s office.

9 replies on “Hate Crimes Are Evil”

You still haven’t successfully argued me away from the stance I take, that you yourself convinced me of 15 years ago. Why is it important to punish someone more for assault from racism than from simply being a violent person?

Sweet irony!

I break it down into is it okay and is it good.

I think it is okay to have hate crime legislation because I think there is a separate harm. There are, for example, other victims. There are other elements: the effort to send a message to a particular group.

This is an important thing here. It can’t just be worse to attack gay people or Black people. There has to be an intention to send a message to other members of the group. Captured in the legislation with the words “motivated by prejudice.” To be convicted of this crime there must be evidence of the motivation. *pause* You know, I think it should require objective evidence of the motivation, some manifestation of that motivation at the time of the crime. Hmm. Could be better.

Okay, so separate harm is why it’s okay (not Double Jeopardy, for example). But why is it good?

Deterrence, Incapacitation, Retribution, and Rehabilitation are the four accepted motivation for criminal punishment. No one kids themselves about rehabilitation anymore.
Deterrence I think special punishment for the motivation could deter people. Particularly since these people are hurting people they don’t otherwise have a grudge against. Also, I think there is a need to specially deter this behavior.
Retribution I think it is especially evil to attack someone because of who they are. I think it is a more heinous act and worthy of greater punishment.

So, that’s why I think it is good to do.

So the argument is that if I kill someone for a loaf of bread, I have committed the crime of violence against the grocery shopper.

If I kill a person for being black, I have committed the crime of violence against the black man, and have committed a violence-inciting crime against black men? Is that the distinction?

Yours in an example of why it can’t be a hate crime just to kill a person who is gay or Black or holding bread. The crime has to be “motivated by prejudice.” You have to kill someone BECAUSE he is gay or Black.

If you killed someone with a loaf of bread in order to intimindate the class of people who by their very nature bought bread, it would be the same.

Hate crimes address the separate harm caused by the intimidation directed at a particular group. If a minority street gang killed a middle-class White guy with the intention to send a messate to other Whites that this neighborhood isn’t safe for them, it would be a hate crime.

Which is another point, the legislation cannot be biased toward membership in a class. It has to apply to hate crimes against all races, genders, sexual-orientations, religions, etc.

I’m still not at all convinced.

Perhaps I can get behind the idea, but unless you can prove the intent was message-sending, you have no case. It’s basically un-provable, but we all know that when the mean skinhead is tried, we’re going to get a conviction based on it. It’s going to produce inequity in enforcement and we all know it. And that makes me think that it’s a bad law, regardless of the fact that we can imagine a world of perfect jurisprudence where the proceedings always produce the whole truth.

It’s like arguing for abstinence. We all want 15 year-olds not to have sex, but if your plan for keeping 15 year-olds from getting pregnant is abstinence-only, then you aren’t playing in the real world and so you should be excluded from the grown-ups’ conversation.

Well, I can respect the opinion that hate crimes are unnecessary. However, we prove intent all of the time. Some degree of intent is an element in every criminal charge.

Now this is probably better described as motive or specific intent. But we prove that all the time too. Fraud; Slander; Defamation. These all require showing that the person intended to do something specific.

Actually, I don’t think it would be hard at all to prove that a crime was motivated by prejudice. The defendant could certainly put on evidence to show some other motivation.

I think the closer question is do we want to punish the message sending component of the crime.

I guess I can agree that since we prove intent all the time, it isn’t a huge stretch to require it here. So okay, I’ll agree to hate crimes, but only if the bar for proof of intent is very high — much higher than it is today where some groups are 1,000s of times more likely to be convicted of hate crimes than others.

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