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  • Our Continuing Sad Problem With Hate Crimes

    Posted by Shannon Love on July 25th, 2009 (All posts by )

    Via Instapundit comes a story of a hate crime against a black family in Austin, Tx:

    The brick, thrown through a 4-year-old boy’s bedroom window, read “Keep Westside White. Keep Westside Strong.”
     
    The homeowner, Barbara Frische, who is black, said she has lived in the home for 10 years.
     
    “It’s the first time anything like this has ever happened to me,” she said.
     
    Police have not classified this incident as a hate crime, said Austin Police Sgt. Richard Stresing, because hate crimes target an individual specifically because of an identifying characteristic, like race. Police say the incident has been classified as criminal mischief and deadly conduct.

    Honestly, every time I think we’ve made progress in Texas on race relations, something like this comes along to prove me wrong. How can the police not see this as a hate crime? You have a message advocating racial segregation tossed through the window of a black family who had the temerity to move into a historically all-white area of the city.

    This is why African Americans have such a hard time believing that hate-crime laws will be fairly enforced and aren’t just some kind of legal fiction intended to single them out for punishment and to stigmatize them as a group. This is especially true when you consider that many people in the law and academia hold to the belief that racism and therefore hate crimes are attributes solely of African American culture. When you have such an intellectual framework, how can African Americans trust that hate-crime laws will be enforced fairly?

    Clearly, America still has a lot of work to do.

    [Update: It’s pointed out to me that I may have made a typo or two when I copied the quote from the original article. I’ll fix it later but in the meantime make sure to read the original before commenting.]

     

    15 Responses to “Our Continuing Sad Problem With Hate Crimes”

    1. pst314 Says:

      “many people in the law and academia hold to the belief that racism and therefore hate-crimes are attributes solely of African-American culture”

      Well, most of the openly proudly racist people I have met in recent decades were African-Americans, but I think you meant the opposite.

    2. Tatyana Says:

      Pst314 – have you read the update?

      Shannon: you almost get me, too. Right up until that “academia” bit.

    3. Tom Paine Says:

      Let’s not go too far out on a limb here, people.

      Until we know this incident isn’t a hoax.

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      Tom Paine,

      Until we know this incident isn’t a hoax.

      Interesting. So, you investigate a crime differently depending on what you assume is the unknown perpetrators intent?

    5. Bill Waddell Says:

      The only reason for the ‘hate crime’ classification is to put some teeth into our far-too-lenient criminal justice system. Without classifying this as a hate crime, the perpetrator would get counseling, probabtion, or at worst, community service. We invented ‘hate crime’ to get around that.

      If people went to jail for a good long time for hurling bricks through other people’s windows, it would not matter to the victim, society, or anyone else what their motive was.

      Shannon, if someone tossed a brick through your window because they had nothing better to do on a drunken Saturday night than watch the glass in your house break, should their punishment be any more or less than the punisment they should receive for hurling a brick because someone is black?

      What they did deserves punishment – why they did it is irrelevant.

    6. Bill Waddell Says:

      I agree, Shannon, that in 2009 we should be way beyond all of this.

      If we really want to up the ante on race-driven abuse, let’s get discrimination out of the civil courts and into the criminal courts.

      The night shift manager at Denny’s doesn’t want to serve black folks? He goes to prison for 2 years for blatantly denying someone life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (although I personally would not call eating at Denny’s the pursuit of happiness, but that’s just me). No more EEOC, no more levying fines against companies or ordering mandatory diversity training – just, you deny someone a job, a meal, or anything else becasue you don’t like their color, ehtnicity or religion – then you personally go to jail.

      Of course the flip side is that criminal charges have a higher standard of evidence for a conviction – and false criminal charges can bring a world of trouble down on the accuser.

      So it would raise the stakes on all sides – don’t make the accusation unless you can prove it, but if you can prove it the individual who is guilty is in deep trouble.

    7. Shannon Love Says:

      Bill Waddel,

      If people went to jail for a good long time for hurling bricks through other people’s windows, it would not matter to the victim, society, or anyone else what their motive was.

      I am mildly sympathetic to the view that hate crime designations might actually be useful for suppressing small acts committed collectively. In a place like Texas were those who kill out of racial hatred get the death penalty, it is clear that additional penalties for gross acts of racial hatred won’t accomplish much. However, if you think about a large number of trivial assaults, such a breaking windows, carried out by large numbers of people, then you have a different problem. You wouldn’t want to send stupid kids to prison for years for breaking windows but you would want to have an option if all the kids in the neighborhood each junk a rock a the house of people viewed as different.

      The trouble with zero-tolerance approaches is that in the real-world they create a great deal of collateral damage with people only mildly guilty . They also magnify the injustice of convicting the innocent.

    8. Shannon Love Says:

      Bill Waddell,

      I am also opposed to making non-violent discrimination illegal. People who turn away customers or refuse to hire the best employees for irrational reasons will be automatically punished. At no time in American history has the free-market systematically discriminated against any group for non-functional reasons. Instead, government or violent groups have had to step in to enforce irrational bias in the market place.

    9. Bill Waddell Says:

      “At no time in American history has the free-market systematically discriminated against any group for non-functional reasons”

      I am quite sure that millions of blacks, irish and Mexicans would raise an eyebrow at that statement. The free-market of the southern plantation economy kept blacks uneducated and in slavery because it served the purpose of keeping the plantation owners from having to pay competitive wages for labor and the non-plantation owning whites from having to compete with blacks for trade and mercantile jobs. That was an economically functional reason for the whites – a grossly non-functional reason for the blacks. So I ask, non-functinal for who?

      Shannon, I find a great deal of inconsistency in your arguements. You advocate tougher criminal law enforcement for ‘violent’ acts of discrimination – i.e. throwing a rock through someone’s window because they are black – but a laissez faire approach to non-violent discrimination – i.e. the market will punish the perpetartors soon enough for denying someone a job or a meal. If I were the victim I’m not sure I would agree. All things considered, I would rather have a good job and putup with the occasional rock through my window, than be denied a job while we wait for a market correction, but have the comfort of knowing my windows will remain intact. Of course, I would prefer most of all to have both a job and windows.

      Having motive be the major driver sets us up for a fall. Henry Gates apparently sees every unpleasanteness in his life as a function of his race. He would classify cops asking to see his ID is a hate crime. Who decides which acts are motivated by race, and which acts are simply the work of jerks? … especially in the days when we have judges in the highest court in the land who feel that a Hispanic woman will arrive at wiser decisions than a white male simply by the nature of her Hispanic femaleness?

      I would far prefer trial and punishment based on acts, rather than someone’s arbitrary interpretation of motives, and as for your ‘stupid neighborhood kids’, let them go to juvenile court and have their punishment tempered based on their youth.

    10. Jonathan Says:

      The antebellum plantation economy was anything but a free market, since it was based on labor stolen from the slaves.

    11. Bill Waddell Says:

      Jonathon,

      Based on that criteria, when in our history have we had a free market?

    12. Shannon Love Says:

      Bill Waddle,

      The free-market of the southern plantation economy kept blacks uneducated and in slavery…

      No, the free-market didn’t. The free-market created incentives for people to educate their slaves and provide them with skills. In order to counteract this force in the free-market laws were passed to forbid the education of slaves. Whenever you find a law forbidding something, that means that to many people are choosing to do that thing than other people are comfortable with. Had the free-market acted to prevent he education of slaves, it wouldn’t have occurred to anyone that law was needed.

      You advocate tougher criminal law enforcement for ‘violent’ acts of discrimination – i.e. throwing a rock through someone’s window because they are black – but a laissez faire approach to non-violent discrimination – i.e. the market will punish the perpetartors soon enough for denying someone a job or a meal.

      That is because a refusal to interact with someone is not an active attack on them. In the former, the individual is no worse off than if you had never existed, in the latter you make them worse off than if you had never existed.

      All things considered, I would rather have a good job and putup with the occasional rock through my window, than be denied a job while we wait for a market correction, but have the comfort of knowing my windows will remain intact.

      Except the history has been that politically powerful groups get the jobs and throw rocks through other people’s windows. Government does not have the power to order society justly. Governments power is grounded in violence. It can only improve the lot of one group by hurting another group.

      The power of the free-market, of voluntary interaction without the threat of violence, is powerful. We casually talk about white Americans versus everyone else but in the 1800’s no such concept as “white” existed as we no think of it. The Irish were not white, catholics were not white, anyone from souther or eastern europe were not white. White people in Europe spent an inordinate amount of time killing each other. Yet all these people came to no hold’s barred capitalistic American north and west and over the generations melded into a people with a single identity. Nothing the government did helped this process. Starting about 1870, we began the age of racial socialism that peaked in the 1930’s. It is this period that most people today think of as defining race relations in America.

      Based on that criteria, when in our history have we had a free market?

      We have not and never will have perfectly free-market. If nothing else, the violence of criminals creates distortions in the market. The free-market is more of pole of behavior that we see as our goal. We also have to resist the urge to use violence to get the result we want in the short-term instead of being patient for it to work out in the long term.

    13. newrouter Says:

      Police investigating brick thrown into East Austin home

      By Juana Summers | Friday, July 24, 2009, 12:58 PM

      Police are investigating a brick with an offensive message thrown into the window of an East Austin home.

      The brick, thrown through a 4-year-old boy’s bedroom window, read “Keep Eastside Black. Keep Eastside Strong.”

      The homeowner, Barbara Frische, who is white, said she has lived in the home for 10 years.

      here

    14. Joe Says:

      “Hate Bill” Favoritism

      If “hate bill”-obsessed Congress can’t protect Christians from “gays” as much as it wants to protect “gays” from Christians, will Congress be surprised if it can’t protect itself from most everyone? If “hate bills” are forced on captive Americans, they’ll still find ways to sneakily continue to “plant” Biblical messages everywhere. By doing so they’ll hasten God’s judgment on their oppressors as revealed in Proverbs 19:1. (See related web items including “David Letterman’s Hate, Etc.,” “Separation of Raunch and State,” “Michael the Narc-Angel,” and “Obama Avoids Bible Verses.”) Since Congress can’t seem to legislate “morality,” it’s making up for it by legislating “immorality”!

    15. Craig R. Harmon Says:

      I agree that, given a legal regime where such things as hate laws exist, failure to classify this as a racially motivated crime is ludicrous. I, however, abhor the whole concept of hate crimes, where if I get beat up by some guy for cash to feed his drug habit, he has not committed a hate crime and gets no enhancement to his sentence but if I’m gay and he beats me up because he hates gays, he’s committed a hate crime and gets a greater sentence. I fail to see how the second crime is any worse than the first as I am equally beaten up. Hate crimes, it seems to me, serves to criminalize hatred, a normal human emotion to which all of us are subject from time to time. We all have our prejudices and preferences — for what is a preference, with regard to human interrelations but an act of discrimination: we eschew the company of the greater number of our fellows, even among those in close proximity to us, and focus our attentions on the few. I view hatred as merely an extreme, a pole at one end of a continuum of emotion from love through indifference to hate, with fondness and mild dislike interspersed throughout. Hate is an emotion, not a crime and should not engender a greater punishment than a crime not motivated by hate. Punishing hate will never eliminate the emotion.

      I also find the notion of punishing crimes against some people — racial minorities, members of the GLBT community — with a greater sentence than crimes against a majority to be abhorrent. Has anyone ever been sentenced under a hate crime enhancement because they hate white, anglo-saxon, protestant males? I guess that’s a question from ignorance. It is possible that such has been the case and, if so, that would nullify this point.

      But why stop at hate crimes on the basis of race, creed, gender or sexual preference? If my neighbor beats me up because he hates me — that is, he hates me because I’m a jerk rather than for my membership in some protected class of person — shouldn’t that be a hate crime too? He hates me. His hatred of me motivated his assault. How does that differ from an assault on me because I’m gay by someone who hates gays?

      Bottom line for me, the government and law ought to protect all equally, not some more equally than others. We ought all to be members of a protected class and crimes against all be treated like crimes against any one of us.

      What is the basis for hate crimes, then, in a country where the Constitution demands that all be treated equally before the law? Do not hate crime laws create inherent inequalities?