Oh hi! Have you read this article yet? It’s a doozie. Black people hating on white people. White people wondering if it is because they are white. And social inequality abounds! Whoopie pie!
I really did love John Conroy’s piece. That’s what is inspiring me, in part, to write this post. That and the HRC campaigners on my neighborhood street corner who are asking for signatures for national hate-crime legislation that would double plus punish those that think bad gay thoughts before and while bashing a gay man’s face in. The challenge of this post, as I see it, is making it funny. How do I discuss something so charged as race, religion, sexual orientation and violence while still tap dancing and playing the fiddle (with my eyes closed!)? And do I even really need to be funny? Is it that important that my blog make you chortle at your cubicle, spitting coffee and non-dairy creamer out your nose, causing you to stain your neatly alphabetized paper work and liquefying all that God damn Pez Linda gave you for your birthday because you once said you liked Pez? Maybe not.
I want to talk about hate-crime legislation. As I kind of summarized above, hate-crime legislation are laws that punish criminals more harshly who commit crimes out of prejudice or “hate” against a protected class. They exist on a state level and on a federal level, though many state-level hate crimes laws are more inclusive than the federal, which denies that gays are hateable (and I admit we are pretty fucking loveable. Just look at my long eyelashes flutter.) This is what the HRC push is for, to get gays protected federally, so we can lock away those breeding homophobes like unwanted albino children (albinos are not a protected class so what I just said is only regularly offensive, not “hate-level” offensive).
Now I’m going to say something that some people are going to find controversial. Hell, many of you might even characterize it as Glenn Beck-esque. Breath in…wait for it….I’m against hate-crime legislation. Ooops! I meant I like ice cream! Damn it. Cat’s out of the bag. May as well run with it.
Yeah, you heard me. I’m against hate-crime legislation. And I’m a Jew. A gaaaaaaaaay Jew. With a black boyfriend. Who is also gay. Chew on that I say! And I actually face hatred on a nearly daily basis. As I’ve written before, it’s pretty fucking common I get weird looks or people muttering when my boyfriend and me walk by holding hands. Just yesterday a van driven by some high school twink who was still closeted about his twinkness began mockingly cat calling my boyfriend and me. My boyfriend still insists the guy was actually gay, but I know high school thug wannabes when I see them. After all, I’ve seen High School Musical, and by that I mean Zac Efron shirtless (in a completely different movie). Point is even these little things like name calling or befuddled stares or trying to hit me with your car (yes, that happened) hurt. But should you be punished more harshly because of your ignorance? Read on as I itemize my problems with hate crime legislation.
1. Hate Crime = Thought Crime
It’s a pretty common argument against hate-crime legislation, that if you punish more harshly for the motive, then in essence you are attempting to read the mind of the attacker, which starts feeling all 1984-ish. A counterargument could be that we do have different levels of murder, you know, 1st degree and all that. And these take thought into account as in premeditation. And I think there are problems with that part of the system too for the same reasons. Because is it really worse for someone to plan out a murder or to hastily put one together? Either way, someone’s dead, and either way, you’re a killer. And frankly, I think it becomes a slippery slope when you start sentencing based on thought. I’ve got enough weirdness going on in my head, I don’t need the government poking around in there as well. And as John Conroy points out in his article, isn’t it more terrifying to think of someone committing a crime for no reason at all? To commit a crime just because rather than having some kind of creed or twisted sense of values? Aren’t they the real monsters?
2. Hate-Crime Legislation Supports Penal System Based On Punishment, Not Rehabilitation
Most people don’t realize that the penal system really should be about rehabilitation, not punishment. What good does it do a society to lock criminals up in a time out situation for years, rather than provide them with attentive counseling to actually prevent this person from committing a crime again? Our penal system is one of punishment, where prosecutors seek maximum sentencing. And we as the public have just come to accept this, like it’s okay or something. Rather we should be educating and counseling and providing real beneficial help to criminals to make sure they won’t forever be criminals. And considering a mind-boggling number of people in prisons are black and started out disadvantaged in the first place, wouldn’t providing counseling rather than punishment be at least one way to maybe give them the opportunity at the good life they never had? But hate-crime legislation upholds the idea that punishment is the way to go. Why not provide additional counseling to those that commit crimes based on hatred for a protected class? Wouldn’t this be more effective and frankly less lazy than merely extending the punishment?
3. Who Are Hate Crimes Really Hurting?
So the notion of a hate crime is that if you hurt someone because of their race, for example, than you are hurting more than just that individual, you are hurting their entire race. But I think this is a pretty pessimistic and inaccurate way to look at things these days. I’d like to think the majority of white people or Christians or straight people or whoever else is a majority, is progressive enough to not want to cause harm to people different than themselves. Because of this, I say that a hate crime isn’t actually causing damage to the protected class that is being hated against, it is doing damage to the religion, race, sexual orientation, etc. of the person committing the act of hate. If a white guy beats up a black guy because of the color of his skin, it’s doing a great disservice to white people everywhere. It makes us look terrible and destroys much credibility we may have developed within the eyes of black people. If a straight person beats up someone who is gay, it just lends weight to the notion that all straight people hate gays. I suppose this last point isn’t one against hate-crime legislation. But it does call into question what I perceive as the pessimism and narrow-mindedness behind hate-crime legislation.
So yeah, in my perfect world, we wouldn’t have hate-crime laws. We’d just have laws, and attempt to rehabilitate any criminal the best way we can. That means if it is determined their crime was motivated by hate, then they receive counseling specific to that. What good does it do to just punish and punish and punish? All we end up doing is making more money for private companies (who have strong ties to our politicians) that run prisons.