Saturday, November 3, 2007

It's not a crime to hate.

Hate crime: A crime motivated by prejudice against a social group

Scapegoat: One that is made to bear the blame of others.

Racism and bigotry are arguably the most important issues facing America and perhaps the world. The energy misused because of them is energy that will not be used to address the major world problems such as hunger and disease.

Racism saps the strength of a nation, robs it of the contributions that might have been made by its victims. It is a blot on our society, a curse.

Is it any wonder then, that acts of racism are to be condemned and punished?

Enter the notion of a "hate crime".

I am very troubled by the idea that a person who commits a crime motivated by hate might be treated differently than another who commits the same act but for a different reason.

If I were killed by a gang member who, as part of an initiation had to murder someone, or by a white supremacist because I was black, or by a homophobe because I was gay, I'd be just as dead.

Are the last two crimes really 'worse' than the first one? Hate crime legislation suggests that indeed, the last two crimes must have harsher, or at least different punishments. I strongly disagree.

I believe that what is at work here is our collective guilt that in our society we can still see racism, bigotry and intolerance, and that we try to reduce our guilt by making the perpetrator of a 'hate crime' pay more dearly than if his crime were not motivated by hate.

Hate crime law creates, in effect, a scapegoat for our society's failings and demeans all the other victims of crimes that don't fall into that special category.

Hate crime legislation is dishonest and hypocritical and should be stopped.

Until we pass legislation to the contrary, it is not a crime to hate.

But maybe it's just me.