John Stossel on Twitter(6-6-2013)
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definesa ‘hate crime’ as: any of various crimes (as assault or defacement of property) when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group (as one based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation).
The question raised by John Stossel in his statement on Twitter is this: if someone who harbors an inner prejudice commits a murder, assault, robbery, vandalism or other crime against a particular individual based that person’s membership in a particular group, should there be addition punishment handed out to the criminal? Is a crime any more heinous if there is a bigoted or prejudiced motivation behind the crime?
First, I would like to take a look at the second part of Mr. Stossel’s statement. Most crimes are not motivated by hate or malice. They are crimes of opportunity, need, or spontaneous acts of aggression such as the drug addict seeing an unattended purse; the domestic dispute or family argument which gets out of hand.
Hate crimes, on the other hand, are the result of a planned, organized attacks on individuals or institutions who represent the groups for whom the perpetrator has a developed dislike for such as the Neo-Nazi hatred of minorities and Jews; homophobes who hate and fear homosexual males(or males they perceive as being homosexuals base on stereotypes).
To answer the first part of Mr. Stossel’s statement, YES, we do need hate crimes laws. It is an unfortunate reality of not only our society but even more so in other countries. Almost weekly, on a frequency higher than in our country, we see stories in the media of ‘hate crime’ attacks in supposedly more sophisticated and cultured Europe. Their societies which view themselves as far more enlightened and mature than our ‘Wild West’ America have found themselves having to deal with the questions of integration of minority groups which we have been working on over the past fifty years and which they are coming to grips with now for the first time.
The point that Mr. Stossel should have made about hate crimes here in the U.S. is that we have to make sure what we call ‘hate crimes’ are really that and not just run-of-the-mill urban violence and crime or publicity stunt or innocent act of self-defense. We have seen the cases that have been exploited for ill by such men as the Rev. Al Sharpton(i.e. The Tawana Brawley case). We have to wait for all the facts of cases to come out(i.e. The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin casewhich is currently going to trial).
Do hate crimes exist? Yes! Should there be added punishment beyond the simple underlying act of violence for those convicted of hate crimes? Yes! Does every crime committed against a particular member of a particular group whose history includes being the victims of hate crimes constitute a hate crime? No!