Sex & Society » Acceptance, Lgbt, Politics: "The Devil's Advocate: Why I Hate Hate Crimes"

EdenFantasys Store

The Devil's Advocate: Why I Hate Hate Crimes

  • Print
  • E-mail
All violence is a hate crime, and should be treated equally.

  All Violence is Hateful

I’ve read about some truly horrific “hate crimes” in recent months — including a robber targeting gay men in west village here in New York, and a Hispanic man who beat a Long Beach resident about the face after overhearing him admit that he was gay.

And while those crimes sicken me, I find trouble separating how the motivation for them — petty, bigoted hatred — was any different to the way Giants fan Brian Stow was similarly targeted for assault in the Dodger’s stadium in L.A. last July.

Dodger’s fan Louie Sanchez confronted Stow because he was wearing a Giants shirt — then pursued him into the parking lot and punched and beat him into a coma (one in which Stow remains in today).
In my mind, targeting somebody for assault because of the baseball team they support seems just as horrific and arbitrary as assaulting them for their sexuality or skin color; yet one is classified as a “hate crime” and the other simply “assault and battery.”

They even have different severity of punishments. If Brian Stow had been assaulted because of his sexuality, the perpetrators would have been facing considerably stiffer consequences than they are for attacking him because of the sports jersey he was wearing. Yet, ultimately, Brian Stow’s injuries would have been exactly the same in either example.

  Sending the Wrong Message

So what message does that send out?

I can understand the logic behind hate-crime legislation. It attempts to dissuade people from committing acts of violence against those traditionally most vulnerable to it.

If there are hefty consequences for targeting somebody who is gay, or Muslim, or disabled, it’s hoped people will think twice before victimizing them.

But ultimately, that sends out a very confusing message; because whatever the motivation behind violence — whether it’s a “hate crime” or not — the end result is always the same.

We shouldn’t be punishing people because of their motivation to commit violence; but because they committed violence in the first place.

  Failing to Protect

The fact that Brian Stow didn’t have his skull cracked open because he was the target of a “hate crime” certainly won’t make his family or friends feel any better.

And his case illustrates the weakness is hate crime legislation. It fails to help people targeted for hateful abuse that don’t have the benefit of “hate crime” legislation protecting them?

Again, I can’t help but think of my own experiences; in which I was the target of violence and abuse simply because of the color of my hair.

On one night in particular, back when I was at college, I remember my friends and I being followed into an alleyway by three town kids taunting me for having ginger hair. I was punched in the head several times before we managed to make our escape, and report them to the police.

But their assault wasn’t considered a “hate crime” — even though it was clearly hateful. This is where I suffer the disconnect: I fail to see how casually assaulting somebody because of the color of their hair — or because they were English kids in Wales, or the college students as opposed to townies, or any of a million different reasons — is somehow more acceptable than assaulting them because of their skin color or religion.

  Bad Law

And it’s not just flawed from a logical point of view; there are also legal issues to think of. One of the most immediate, of course, is the 14th Amendment: Equal Protection Under the Law.

If Person A is assaulted because they are gay, and Person B is assaulted because they were wearing the wrong sports jersey — and assuming they’re both injured identically — how is it “equal protection” under the law if the law pursues and punishes those who attacked Person A much more severely than those who victimized Person B?

The fact is, all violence is unacceptable; and treating some victims of hate differently from others doesn’t help in the struggle for racial, gender and sexual equality; but create even deeper and insurmountable disparity.


Contributor: sarahbear

Excellent points, as usual. I'm all for anti-bullying campaigns, but bullying is bullying is bullying. It's no more heinous to beat the snot out of someone for one reason than it is for another. Violence is not acceptable under any circumstance.

Contributor: Janis

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you've said. Being a fellow redhead, I also understand being singled out simply, unjustly, and nonsensically for having bright hair.

Contributor: PussyPurr

I understand your point...but, people with red hair haven't been slaughtered wholesale, enslaved, had their land and rights stolen from them, put into camps, etc etc. People with red hair don't get more severe treatment by the criminal justice system because they're ginger. People with red hair don't live in segregated poverty-stricken neighborhoods, or lose job opportunities, get treated like potential criminals, or get shunted into shitty schools because they're ginger. People with red hair don't automatically get followed around stores simply for the crime of having red hair and trying to shop.

Look, I'm not dismissing the experience of people who have been bullied. I have been bullied and it's horrible. But comparing having red hair to being an historically oppressed minority in this racist country is more than a bit of a stretch, IMO.

Contributor: Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)

Dear PussyPurr,

I'm not claiming anything of the sort; I'm just saying why is violence towards one person treated as more seriously than violence against another person? Where's the 'equality' in that?

Also, I fear you might think I'm bring flippant about the ginger thing. Don't worry, a lot of Americans are; because they're rational people who think the notion sounds absurd. My wife laughed when I told her about "gingerism" in England; but she stopped laughing when she moved there and saw it for herself. There are folks who are stabbed for being ginger, driven from their community for having red hair and just generally get treated shittily in a way that would be unacceptable to treat any other minority. I'm not claiming it's "as bad" as the centuries of abuse other minorities have endured; but I was always under the impression fighting against discrimination and marginalization wasn't about scoring points as to "who's the more abused."

As my article says: the motivation for hate crimes isn't important. The fact that they're committed is.

Contributor: plankton

great article! and a lot of people don't know about how people with red or "ginger" hair are treated in England (because of possible Celtic background?).. violence is violence (thinking of the word "violation" too).
that said, some people think verbal abuse 'isn't really abuse' but i guess if u haven't gone thru a certain experience as well, it's hard to relate to how psychically damaging it can be. for example, being harassed because of a visible 'abnormal' body part (now what is not humanly possible for anyone to have in the definition of "normal" there?), like a disability, etc. we'd all benefit from being more supportive of each other in violent behavior, no matter what form it takes.

Contributor: Teacookie

lol Pussypurr hasn't been reading thier history, apparently. Red heads where at one point treated horribly here in america because they could not hide their scotish or irish heritage. I agree with Mr. Rolands' point of view. As to the England thing, wow people have short term memories, Braveheart remember?