My So Called Life - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Embrace life -- both the sweet days and the bitter...embrace the joy and the sadness...the successes and the defeats -- for all of these things, both good and bad, have made you who you are.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Are Hate Crime Laws Important? - Let's Take A Look

Some of you may or may not be aware that a Hate Crimes bill has been introduced this year into Congress. This bill is a gay- and transgender-inclusive hate crimes bill which would add sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability to the list of protections under the current hate crimes law. This bill has passed through the House of Representatives with a vote of 237 - 180. Now the bill has been sent to the Senate where unfortunately it could be stalled until September or even October.

Now some people may ask why is more legislation needed? Why do we have to differentiate these crimes from other crimes...can't these crimes be prosecuted under the current laws just as easily. Those are valid questions, and to them, I would say this:

Hate crimes are a special type of crime because of what they signify. They go after the core of someone's identity. Hate crimes are especially vicious because it is their nature that the crime is not just committed against one person, but rather against that person as a representative of a larger group. They seek the degradation and dehumanization of an entire group of people, incite social unrest, and the emotional and psychological problems that stem from the attacks extend far beyond the individual to the larger group and to society as a whole.

Current hate crimes legislation helps to protect victims of crimes based on their race, religion, color, and national origin. So in a nut shell, here is what that means:

Under current law, if you are attacked because you are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Caucasian, then you are a victim of a hate crime. If you are attacked because you are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Christian, then you are a victim of a hate crime. If you are attacked because you are Albanian, Mexican, Ethiopian, Russian, or whatever, then you are a victim of a hate crime. But if you get the shit beat out of you within an inch of your life, ribs cracked, skull kicked in, blood all over your clothes and all over the pavement, a broken nose, knocked out teeth, and spit upon because you are gay, lesbian or trans-gender, then sorry...its assault and battery. Now in the last example, if you had died, they could have added murder to the list of charges, but that wouldn't do the victim much good now would it??? Why? Because this last example was not a hate crime...

I don't care what the law says...that is a hate crime no matter how you label or don't label it. Hate crimes should be prosecuted harsher and the punishments should be more severe.

Let's look at some examples and see what you guys think...

A man is approached from behind on the residential street where he lives. He is attacked and robbed. Obviously a crime was committed so the perpetrator of this crime is caught and charged with robbery, assault, and battery. Case opened/case closed. We see this example all the time.

A man is approached from behind on the residential street where he lives and he is attacked and robbed because he is Black. Obviously a crime was committed. it the same crime that was committed in the prior scenario. Is this crime just an open/shut case of robbery, assault and battery? Deep down, I know most if not all of you are thinking...NO...and why....because the victim was singled out because of his race not because of how much money he had in his wallet. In the first scenario, anyone in the neighborhood could feel nervous or scared because of what occurred. However, this second scenario brings with it other implications as well. While the first example would cause general unease in the neighborhood where the attack happened, this second example goes beyond the victim to a specific larger group: all of the black residents of that neighborhood. Now the social well being of an entire group of people (the African American community) in this community is disrupted and brought into question . This is what sets the two scenarios apart. The difference is astounding when you think about.

A man is approached from behind on the residential street where he lives and he is attacked and robbed because he is homosexual. Obviously a crime was committed. But what type of crime...and what type of punishment should be delivered? Does this crime qualify as the first example where you only punish the actions...or does it fall under the second scenario where you punish not only the actions but the prejudicial and bigoted motives behind the crime as well?

You see, that is the main difference, the absolute defining fork in the road between crime and "hate" crime. The motive behind the crime totally changes the attitude of the crime, the purpose of the crime, and the result and affect the crime has on the individual, the larger group the victim belongs to and our society as a whole.

Forget the moral issue of whether you believe homosexuality is right or wrong. On a basic human level, doesn't that last gruesome example just stir up something within you...doesn't it make you want to stand up and scream that there is something really wrong with our nation when we would actually try and withhold protections from a group of people? We are a nation built upon individuality, uniqueness, liberty, and fairness. Since when did liberty and justice for all exclude the gays, lesbians, and trans-gendered people who I might add are still citizens of this country?

I guess I just do not understand...

But here are some facts I do understand concerning the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.....

Out of the 28 states and the District of Columbia that have laws either protecting sexual orientation and/or transgendered persons:

20 states plus DC typically vote Democrat (21 total)
8 states typically vote Republican
You do the math!

Transgender/Sexual Orientation Inclusive Hate Crime Laws
Blue = Hate Crimes Laws Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: HI, CA, CT, NM, MO, MN, PA, VT, DC
Red = Hate Crimes Laws Include Just Sexual Orientation
Grey = No Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Hate Crimes Laws


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