Hate Crime Laws Essay, Research Paper
Monday, April 9, 2001
HATE CRIME LAWS
Imagine you are a family member of a man who was chained up to the back of a pickup truck and drug along a gravel road for two miles until he was dead. Then imagine how you would feel after you found out that this happened just because he was a black man. Things like this sicken me. I believe that the people that are responsible for these horrific crimes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That is why I strongly support hate crime laws.
Now, before I dive into this very controversial subject, I should probably define what hate crime laws are so you will have a better understanding of what I am talking about. As I have understood it, hate crime laws are laws that protect certain minorities or groups from bias motivated violence and harassment, and also more harshly punish people that commit these crimes against them.
As I started to do my research on hate crime laws I began to notice that there are many experts that are on my side of this issue, and very few experts that oppose hate crime legislation. According to Issues and Controversies on File some experts that do not support hate crime laws believe that these laws “perpetuate inequality among U.S. citizens”. They say that hate crime laws “single out” or pick the minorities that get the special privileges while other groups don’t get any protection. The way they see it is, “why should it be any more of a crime to attack a gay person, they ask, than a heterosexual person?”(506). Other experts that oppose hate crime laws such as Don Feder, believe that these laws deny another basic concept of democracy (equality before law) by creating different classes of victims”(3). Feder says that “anti-bias laws punish ideas.” He believes that these ideas should be protected by the constitution. These are the reasons that Don Feder and very few other experts are against the new hate crime laws (1). While reading through Issues and Controversies on file I also found out that some of the “policy makers” believe that all crimes are committed with some form of hate in mind. They say that if this is true then hate crime laws are “therefore redundant and unnecessary.” These people believe that all crimes are already fully punishable “regardless of why they were committed”(506).
In response to these comments, I can see where some of theses people are coming from. For instance many of these experts that I read about said that it is just the minorities that get the protection from bias motivated crimes. This is really not completely true. In Elena Grigera’s article she says that “it is important to keep in mind that, while hate crime legislation is often viewed as a vehicle of protection for such minority groups as blacks and Jews, such laws also protect the white majority from bias-motivated violence”(2). These people seem to think that it is just the minorities that can become victims of these hate crimes, but in reality that is not the case at all. A white heterosexual male can just as easily become a victim of a hate crime as a black heterosexual male can. For example in the Wisconsin v. Mitchell case in 1993 a group of “black youths severely beat a schoolboy” because he was white. “The youths received enhanced prison sentences” under the state hate crime laws (Hate-Crime 512). This is only one of the many reasons why these hate crime laws are so badly needed, so everyone can be protected not just the minorities.
Another argument that has been brought up in this very controversial issue is whether or not the new hate crime laws are constitutional or not. I believe that for the people that oppose hate crime laws this is their best argument. These people say that the laws violate the first amendment. “In order to prove that a crime was motivated by hate, some analysts point out, prosecutors often rely on testimony to the effect that that the defendant expressed bigoted views during or before the crime.” For instance if an “assailant” yells racial slurs at a person while assaulting someone then that incident could probably be prosecuted as a hate crime. Or if someone burns a cross in the yard of another person’s house the case would probably be handled allot differently if they had just burned a sac of dog droppings in the victim‘s yard. “Yet critics of hate crime laws say that although the beating and vandalism in those hypothetical cases should be punished, the sentiment underlying them should not be. No matter how reprehensible a person’s thoughts seem, critics say, that person has a constitutional right to express them verbally”. So when hate crime laws extend the sentence of a criminal “on the basis of his or her biased personal opinions” then they argue that it violates their first amendment rights. So usually the first amendment protects the criminal, not the victim, and in the end the crime is prosecuted, not the feelings of the criminal. In my opinion all of the so-called experts that believe that hate crime laws violate the constitution are totally wrong. Because even if it did violate there rights it shouldn’t matter. The reason I say this is because in this day and age every body knows being prejudice is wrong. So if you commit a crime against a person just because you are prejudice shouldn’t that be wrong too? Now, this is where the Wisconsin v. Mitchell case comes in again. In this case the Supreme Court ruled that hate crime laws are constitutional. Criminals shouldn’t be let off on technicality’s (Hate-Crime 512).
Another less noticed, but equally important topic that deals with hate crime laws, are the laws against hate speech. This topic ties in with hate crime laws because hate speech can sometimes spark hate crimes. The first amendment says that individuals have the right to express themselves in any way they wish. But the big question weighing on my mind is, does that include hate speech? Some people like me, believe that speech that promotes “hatred, violence and prejudice” against someone’s race, sex, ethnic back round, sexual orientation or any other group should be restricted and considered a hate crime. According to Issues and Controversies on File this type of speech, often called “hate speech” sometimes oppresses different minorities and groups by making them victims of “hostility” and violence (Hate 225). Hate speech doesn’t have to be spoken; it can come in many other forms. It can take form as symbols, signs, flyers, or any material that is published. For instance, “ in 1987, racist fliers declaring “open hunting season” on blacks were distributed on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The fliers that called black people “saucer lips, porch monkeys, and jigaboos,” were considered examples of hate speech by the university.” This resulted in the University of Michigan and several other colleges to enact new so called “speech codes”. Soon after the university incidents “certain local governments” started to make their own hate crime laws because the hate speech was “demeaning and harmful to the community”(Hate 226).
In conclusion I want to make it clear that in whatever form they come in, hate crimes are wrong, and that is why I still firmly support hate crime laws.
Monday, April 9, 2001
1.Feder, Don. ”Hate-Crimes Laws Penalize Ideas in Name of Tolerance.” Human Events Sep. 3, 1990:10+
2.Grigera, Elena. “State and Federal Responses to Bias Motivated Violence.” Corrections Today
August, 1999; 68+
3.”Hate Crime Laws.” Issues and Controversies on File. Dec. 25, 1998.
4.”Hate Speech”. Issues and Controversies on File. June 4, 1999.
5.Hays, Kristen. “Suspect Charged With Hate Crime.” Vancouver Columbian Mar. 3, 2000:A2.
6.Jacobs, James B. “Hate Crime Legislation: Challenging Intolerance.” Current Sep. 1992:
7.Jost, Kenneth. “Hate Crimes.” The CQ Researcher Jan.8, 1993
8.McCafferty, Dennis “WWW.HATE.COMES TO YOUR HOME: Is it Free Speech? Or Does it Incite Violence?” USA Weekend March 26-28: 6-7
9.McCarthy, Sarah J. “Fertile Ground For Terrorist?” Humanist Jan./Feb. 1999: 15-16.
10.Sheppard, Nathaniel, Jr. “Hate in Cyberspace.” Emerge July- Aug. 1996 34-40.
11.Title 9A. Washington Criminal Code: Chapter 9A.36, Assault-Physical Harm. “West Revised Code of Washington Annotated. 1999.