I noticed a headline the other day… I was going to share it, because it was so ridiculous, but then I left the website where I’d seen it and didn’t go back. It went like this:
“Woman’s week-long rape, torture may be hate crime.”
And I thought, upon reading that, If a week of rape and torture isn’t based on hate, what the hell is it based on??
It really got me thinking about the notion we have in this country of certain crimes being “hate crimes” and therefore more severely punishable. A hate crime is one which is committed against a member of a protected class (blacks, Jews, gays, etc.) because the offender hates that person for who they are.
For example, if my white grandmother is murdered because she awakens during a burglary in her home, and my black neighbor’s grandmother is murdered because her killer hates black people, the killer of my neighbor’s grandmother would receive a more severe punishment because the murder of a black person is a “hate crime.”
The obvious hypocrisy of this is stunning: it places a higher value on the life of one person, in terms of punishment for a violent crime against that person, than on the life of another.
Look, I understand that we as a society abhor the kind of supremacist thinking that guides groups such as the KKK or results in horrific circumstances such as concentration camps full of Jews or young men dragged until dead behind pickup trucks. And we cannot on principle, as a nation founded on liberty, punish hateful thinking in and of itself.
So instead we intensify the punishment of behavior that comes from hateful thinking. Therefore, “I killed her because she’s black and I hate blacks” gets a worse punishment than, “I killed her because I was trying to rob her and she swung at me with a baseball bat.”
I personally disagree that violent crime is ever anything other than the expression of hatred. And I don’t believe killing someone because they’re black is any more hateful than killing them because they woke up during a robbery. I therefore don’t agree that one person’s life is worth more than another’s in terms of punishment for their murder. It is all killing. It is all abhorrant. It is all hate. And just when I thought headlines couldn’t get any more ridiculous, along came the next day’s effort:
“Feds: No Hate Crime in Torture Case.”
Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on my now-defunct blog, DMweblife, in 2007.