Friday, July 21, 2006

Hate Crimes: What Are They? And Who Can Be Charged For Them?

I was working on this post when I saw this: Alas, a blog: On Hate Crime Statutes

From Alas, here's Ampersand's response to a comment on another post that advocated for the elimination of the hate crime designation:

I think Plunky's analysis is mistaken, because it ignores that many "hate crimes" are crimes not just against an individual, but also against an entire community. If I build a small campfire and roast some hot dogs on Woody Allen's lawn because I'm hungry, that should be recognized as a different crime from burning a cross on Woody's lawn because I want to tell all the area Jews that they might be assaulted or killed if they don't move out.
The post continues from there and I recommend reading the whole post.

Now onto what I was working on before seeing the post that references Plunky's comment:

The call for the elimination of hate crime statutes is a popular position with many conservatives since they seem to believe the designation is anti-white, anti-male and anti-Christian since most of those convicted of hate crimes are white Christian men.

So why, as some opponents of hate-crime statutes argue, shouldn't, "Each crime should be judged solely on its own merits" and not viewed on a larger scale?

The problem with this attitude is that true hate crimes are motivated by ongoing anger at a group (gay, black, homeless, etc) and pose -- by their very definition -- a greater public safety risk than non-hate crimes.

What got me thinking about this subject was a case where the person charged and convicted of a hate crime wasn't white:

CNN: Homeless man convicted of hate crime murder

WHITE PLAINS, New York (AP) -- A homeless convicted rapist who told police he stabbed a woman to death because she was white was convicted Tuesday of murder as a hate crime.
Jurors found Phillip Grant guilty of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
Grant, who is black, had admitted killing Concetta Russo-Carriero, 56, last June in a mall parking garage. "As long as she had blond hair and blue eyes, she had to die," Grant said on a videotaped statement to police, which was shown at the trial. "I have no remorse whatsoever because she was white."
Just as someone convicted of driving over a curb and striking a pedestrian simply because that person appears to be gay is a greater risk to society than someone who takes the same action against a specific person they know and hate for personal reasons, this man poses a larger risk.

Hate crimes tend to be systemic crimes since there doesn't need to be any build up of motivation before they re-offend. People who commit hate crimes may have a superiority complex and feel they have the right to punish members of inferior groups. Or they could feel they've been wronged by another group and be seeking revenge.

In a hate crime, something as benign as blond hair can set the crime in motion.

Someone who has a sense of violent entitlement, for whatever reason, is very dangerous as shown by the number of unprovoked attacks on gays or people who look gay. The resistance I've seen to viewing crimes like this as hate crimes often come down to the speaker's own bias against one or more of the groups that are most likely to be the targets of hate crimes and/or their unwillingness to empathize with anyone except the attacker facing stiffer penalties in these types of cases.

The murder cases committed by released felons that often get conservatives riled about how we're being soft on crime seem to me to be a form of hate crimes. Many times these felons were convicted of violent rape or of attempts to commit rapes that are clearly violent in nature. But because the original crime was judged purely on it's own merits, the person was given a lighter sentence than his pattern of behavior warrants. The motivation for a person like this is persistent and he only needs an opportunity to reoffend.

Many times those who are most strident against identifying true hate crimes and prosecuting them as such, come across to me as backhanded cheerleaders. They will say or write something like, "Of course I don't condone violence, but ..."

What usually follows is a negative characterization of the chosen victims or an excusing of the perpetrator. This action reinforces the belief held by those who commit hate crimes that they are only doing what so many others don't have the courage to do. And if they attack enemies of a person or group that paints itself as righteous, they may find themselves allied with people who will go to the press explaining how this person isn't a natural criminal.

The victim or intended victim will then be painted as the real perpetrator.

This happened after Eric Rudolf, the Atlanta Olympics bomber and the man who killed a police officer, bombed an abortion clinic. He had ties to a pro-life activist who denies knowing or influencing Rudolf. Others said they didn't condone violence, but reportedly contributed to his legal defense fund.

CNN: Rudolph Sentencing

In an extensive statement before his sentencing, Rudolph said the bombings were part of a guerrilla campaign against abortion, "the homosexual agenda" and the U.S. government. He said he had "nothing personal" against Lyons or Sanderson, but targeted them "for what they did" at the clinic.
Crimes committed for a so-called moral belief, are dangerous enough that the context must be taken into account when determining how long the person found guilty should stay in prison. To do otherwise is to send a very dangerous message to those who are rationalizing their own pattern of violence.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:09 AM   5 comments links to this post


At July 21, 2006 11:08 AM, Anonymous plunky said...

"The call for the elimination of hate crime statutes is a popular position with many conservatives since they seem to believe the designation is anti-white, anti-male and anti-Christian since most of those convicted of hate crimes are white Christian men."

Nice straw man. This wasn't said anywhere in the alas comments.

At July 21, 2006 11:47 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


Actually, it isn't a strawman since I didn't write that in response to the post on Alas or any comments made there.

In a variety of other venues, people have come right out and said hate crime statutes are anti-white laws or reverse discrimination against white men.

At July 21, 2006 1:08 PM, Anonymous plunky said...

Straw man or no straw man, you are implying that my argument is 1) conservative and 2) based on racism against whites. Why? Because the statement I quoted was your trackback. It immediately follows the copy of my comments, with no text to differentiate them. If "other" people make this argument, attribute it to them directly, not me by proxy.

At July 21, 2006 2:26 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I apologize if my post came across as implying you were conservative or based on the arguments many conservatives use.

I'll edit the post to make that differentiation clear.

At July 21, 2006 5:46 PM, Blogger Beachwriter said...

Whatever the case may be - Hate Crime is what it is - a crime committed due disliking a certain group, ethniticity, sexuality, and other discriminating reasons.

Marcella - you shouldn't have to apologize for anything. When talking "politics" or anything that is controversial - it is up for discussion and debate.

Thanks for the post.


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