Monday, June 27, 2016

Are All Crimes Hate Crimes?

In light of many horrific tragedies our world is facing, especially the shooting in Orlando, there is talk of applying hate crime law in the United States. Every time the phrase "hate crime" is used, people get up in arms about how inappropriate it is, as virtually all crimes are committed out of hate.

Murder, rape, theft, etc. all violate other people's rights, which theoretically requires some level of disregard for the other, if not full blown hate. I wouldn't disagree with this argument. In fact, I've thought it myself.

However, I've come to realize hate crime law isn't just trying to capture the presence of hate during a crime. It's really more focused on the additional element that someone (or a group of people) is targeted just because of a part of their identity (e.g., religion, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.). This extra legal charge can be applied to add penalty for committing a crime, at least in part, because of the victim's identity.

This doesn't dismiss or minimize the disregard for rights someone committing a crime often must have, and it doesn't mean there wasn't a specific motivator to commit the offense. What it does do is recognize the problems caused by hateful discrimination that increases crime.

While many crimes are driven by hate of some kind, there's a difference between hating someone who did something that injured you and hating someone because of an element of their identity. A crime driven out of either is problematic, but as a society, we generally can understand the former more. However, the latter is more systemically problematic and without any reasonable justification. Hence, our agreed upon system of justice penalizes that even more.

The real question is not whether all crimes are hate crimes, but whether there should be an extra penalty for a crime committed in part because of the victim's identity.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).