Do We Need Hate Crime Laws?

I am writing this because I recently got into a discussion about hate crime laws on an internet marketing forum.

The funny thing is I was always someone that said “Isn’t any crime a hate crime?”.  Don’t you have to hate someone to kill them no matter what the scenario?  The problem is the word hate – people take it too literally.  I actually became a supporter of hate crime legislation doing research to respond to the forum thread.  I think the best way to share my insight into it, is to show some of their common (and OFTEN repeated) arguments against hate crime legislation.  I will then write in my views on the situation.

Hate crimes further segregate us and are a slap in the face to the idea of equality.

The truth is this is unequivocally wrong.  Hate Crime laws protect EVERYONE and EVERYONE is subject to the laws.  There is no race/religion/sexuality that are exempt from the laws.  What is more fair and equal than that?

This law is just used to infringe on our personal rights.  If we choose to be racist it may be wrong but we shouldn’t go to jail for it.

This is also untrue.  Although I find racism, homophobia or religious prejudice to be deplorable I don’t think people should be arrested for this reason.  Thankfully, hate crime laws were not created to arrest racists.  The only time the law is used is if someone commits an unlawful act that is motivated by their prejudice.  Being a racist and punching a black man isn’t a hate crime – punching that man BECAUSE he is black is.

This law is just another law created by the politically correct weirdos to be used against white males

This is nothing but untrue rhetoric.  You can access the FBI stats on their website and see the breakdown of hate crimes whenever you want.  There were actually 871 anti-white attacks in 2007 (most recent stats).  There were also convictions for anti-catholic and anti-protestant attacks.  In fact EVERY race and EVERY major religion had suffered hate attacks.  Every sexuality also had received hate crime convictions, yes that includes anti-heterosexual attacks.

This shows that no one race is the target of this legislation,  It also helps prove my first point

A crime is a crime

No actually that isn’t true.  A hate(and remember when used like this I mean a crime motivated by prejudice) crime is a significantly different crime than a normal one.  A normal assault does not carry the same weight as a hate crime.  I find it very easy to distinguish between the two.  Firstly, hate crimes are more damaging to the victim.  It may not be more physically damaging but there is little doubt the attacks aren’t more psychologically damaging.  In fact a University of California study showed that:

“Lesbian and gay survivors of hate crimes during the past 5 years showed more signs of psychological distress – including depression, stress, and anger – than did lesbian and gay survivors of comparable non-bias-motivated crimes in the same time period.”

They also found that:

“Crime-related psychological problems dropped substantially among survivors of non-bias crimes within approximately two years after the crime. Hate crime victims, however, continued to have higher levels of depression, stress, and anger for as long as 5 years after their victimization occurred.”

I think it is safe to conclude that hate crime victims suffer worse psychological effects AND those effects last longer than people who suffered normal assaults.

Secondly – hate crimes are not just attacks on one person.  It is an attack on an entire community.  Yes the assault may have only been on one particular person but the repercussions are felt throughout the community.  It instills fear and terror in a multitude of people.  A Harris interactive poll showed that:

64 percent of gays and lesbians are concerned about being the victim of a bias-motivated crime.

That is really sad.  I don’t like when people throw this word around loosely and it happens far too often, but when you have 64% of a community of people fearing for their safety – that borders on terrorism.

We can’t convict people due to motive, laws aren’t about motive.  I hate seeing people jailed left and right because they may have said something politically incorrect during a crime.

The fact is motive has been a part of law for ages.  True, it is hard to prove and in most crimes motive isn’t a sentencing factor.  However, there are certain laws where motive carries a heavy weight.  In fact motive can sometimes be the difference between a manslaughter charge and murder charge.  Not to mention that many times sentencing is left up to judges and they have a min and a max to choose from but there is some wiggle room between those. Judges have given max charges to people who’s crimes were particularly heinous and lesser charges for people with less brutal motives.  This is nothing new. Regardless we shouldn’t shy away from charging people due to their motive because it is hard to prove.

People are not getting locked up left and right because they utter a slur when they committed a crime.  Yes motive is tough to prove but it is up to the PROSECUTION to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.  A slur is not going to be enough.  Hate crimes are charged much more than they are convicted, no one is lightly convicted on a hate crime charge.  There has to be some serious proof.

All of these arguments were presented in the thread on the unnamed forum.  In fact these were about ALL the arguments against hate crimes they could come up with.  They were not afraid to repeat those reasons over and over and over again either.

I really can’t see how you could be so dead set against these type of laws.  But to each their own I guess.

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