Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oklahoma fights hate crimes legislation

It looks like Oklahoma has decided to fight against the recently approved expansion of federal protection to people who are victimized because of their sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. The reason this makes me so angry is because most people have no fucking clue what hate crimes really are and why they’re different from regular violent crimes.

There’s a common misconceptions that while some minorities are protected others aren't that is really prevalent, but the reality is hate crimes legislation doesn’t protect only some minorities (or even just minorities). It protects any person attacked for a reason covered by hates crime legislation (race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability). So, if a black man attacks a white man, simply because he is white, then it’s a hate crime (most people think of it the other way, but all races are covered). The difference between a standard violent crime and a hate crime is the intention (which does matter). While being attacked is horrible for anyone to experience, the reason hate crimes are considered worse is because the crime was done in order to terrorize an entire group of people.

So when a person says “all crimes are done out of hate” or some other vapid bullshit, they are not paying attention to the very real reality that hate crimes effect more then just the single person attacked.

Hate crimes legislation also gives the federal government the opportunity to prosecute crimes when local authorities are unwilling or unable to do so (because of budget constraints). This is very important in some places. Small towns may not have the budget to pay for the extra costs surrounding a hate crime and some towns may be less inclined to recognize the seriousness of a specific attack (hey “boys will be boys” right?).

Obviously this doesn’t mean that there are no reasonable objections to hates crime legislation. But to limit the conversation to only whether or not intent is worthy of a harsher sentence (which based on the different degrees of murder I would argue it is) is to ignore the large societal costs hate crimes cause. It also ignores the horrible reason why the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act came into being in the first place.

And it pisses me off to no end.

1 comment:

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