Friday, May 11, 2007

'Hate Crimes' Bill Moving to Full House

I'm sure this makes me a bad liberal, but I just don't get hate crimes legislation. Now, I'm 100% completely and totally in favor of rights for everyone, including any and all minorities, and even "enemy combatants" (though that's another topic). What I don't understand is why a hate crime is any worse than the exact same crime committed for different reasons.

If someone is stabbed or shot or beaten because they are black, a woman, gay, or whatever, that's terrible and I think the person who did it should be punished severely. However, if I get stabbed or shot or beaten, just because someone wants my wallet, or my car or whatever, I think that's just as terrible, and I want the person who did that punished just as harshly as the person in the first case.

I hate to agree with Republicans, so I must be missing something. Someone please explain it to me.

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5 comments:

fridge said...

Totally Agree. I'm in the "bad liberal" club on this one, too. Seems like parsing a crimes motive is a bad way to guage punishment.

Toast said...

I also am in complete agreement on this one. I just don't get it. "Punish the act, not the motive" strikes me as pure common sense.

Chris Howard said...

There are reasons which seem to be analogous to other areas of law. For instance, if you kill someone, even though the end result is the same, your punishment is not fixed, it's a continuum based on your motive and the circumstances of the crime. That's what determines if you get charged with manslaughter, second degree or first degree murder, which carry escalating sentences.

Another consideration is the effect on the victims. Being a victim of violent crime due to minority status seems to affect people more severly than being a victim for other reasons, such as just being in the wrong place.

This isn't to say I agree wholeheartedly. I'm not sure that hate crimes legislation has a practical effect on hate crime. I would think people who assault and kill people becuase they're gay or female won't be deterred by harsher sentences. It seems to me to be a problem that has to be attacked at the other end if it's possble to see any substantive results. I think that one big reason hate crime laws are popular with us on the left is because it's an official specific acknowledgment that these kinds of crimes won't be tolerated, even as a lot of this type of crime has been swept under the rug in the past. Such as with the thousands of unprosecuted murders of blacks in the South prior to the late 60's.

All that said, I have no sympathy with opposition to hate crime legislation from the Right. I don't think they have motive other than protecting their ability to hate on the gays and women as they see fit.

John Howard said...

I understand that we do treat other crimes differently because of the intent, and I usually don't agree with that either. I think if you kill someone, unless it's a tragic freak accident, then your punishment should be pretty similar.

I'm not sure that hate crimes legislation has a practical effect on hate crime

I doubt it does, but even if it does, then let's punish the same crime done for different reasons that same way and have the same effect.

I know you know I agree that these crimes shouldn't be tolerated, but nor should the same crimes for other reasons. And if they're still being swept under the rug, then we obviously need to fix that. I'm just not sure that this kind of legislation is the way to do that.

And I agree with your last point as well, I rarely have any sympathy for people on the right.

Dee said...

I guess what I was envisioning about "hate crimes" is where one or more people just sort of go "wilding". Just looking for minorities or gays or whatever and beating or killing them just for the "fun" of it. Not so much as an aside to another crime like robbery or car theft, etc.

It seems to me that the "mainstream" population, whatever that is, isn't really faced with being beaten and killed just for who they are.