Saturday, January 29, 2005

Hate crimes  

Orcinus has the best post I have ever read about hate crime laws and why they are important. Its a deeper perspective which gives context to the recent uproar in Vancouver about whether a prosecutor should have called the beating death of a gay may a hate crime. I know the circumstances of this particular case were not as sympathetic as perhaps the prosecutor would have liked -- a gay man was beaten to death by a gang, yes, but he was naked in the park at the time. That said, however, the crime would certainly have qualified as a hate crime uncer Orcinus' description. Here is part of the piece:
"Actually preventing crimes, as always, is hard and often complex work; there are no panaceas when it comes to hate crimes. But a good place to start is understanding the mindset of the people motivated to commit them.
Typically, we're talking about a young male age 16-20 who has both a strong sense of racial identity and a persecution complex, perhaps even an antisocial personality disorder. He is most likely a broadly accepted member of his community (only about 8 percent of all bias crimes are committed by members of so-called hate groups) with some likelihood of previous police contact.
Most are so-called "reactive" offenders: that is, they react against what they perceive as an "invasion" of their community by "outsiders," often spontaneously. What's remarkable about the crimes is their real viciousness, particularly in the case of gay-bashing, in which an overkill of violence is the norm.
But many if not most hate-crime offenders refuse, even after incarceration, to admit that what they did was morally wrong. This is because they believe they are acting on the unspoken wishes of their previously homogeneous community, and thus taking action on a moral plane all their own.
This is why it's important for communities to stand up and be counted when hate crimes occur in their midst. Making public their utter condemnation of such acts sends an important message to the would-be perpetrators: the community does not condone violence to expel outsiders. Using the stiff arm of the law to back that message up is essential, especially when the need is so clear.
Conversely, pretending that a swastika on a synagogue is just another case of vandalism, or treating (especially in law enforcement terms) a "fag bashing" as just another bar fight, sends quite another message, one that in the mind of a hate-crime perpetrator equates with approval. A slap on the wrist is too often seen as a pat on the back; equanimity as forbearance."

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