Kenaz (kenazf) wrote in postqueer,

Curmudgeonly Thoughts on Hate Crime Laws

People who read postqueer may define racism as "prejudice plus power:" most of America defines it as "doing something bad to someone because of their race." They think that a Black person calling a White person 'cracker' is every bit as racist as a White person using the n-word. Most of the people who carry badges and guns, not to mention those who sit in judicial chambers and legislatures, would consider the latter definition more compelling than the former.

Yes, the folks who read postqueer can give you good reasons for their definition (or for a similar one). But they don't have badges and guns, nor do they have the power to pass sentence on someone who has been charged with a "hate crime." Hence, their reasons are, dare I say, "reasons minus power" -- they may argue all they like, but they really have no power to enforce their observations.

What's this got to do with hate crimes, you may ask?

A couple of fratboys are arrested in a gay-bashing incident and charged with a hate crime. Their family can hire high-priced legal assistance, maybe even a private detective who can dig up dirt on the victim. If this is the only gay-bashing incident on their records, and if the victim wasn't too badly injured, they will likely get this pleaded down to a simple assault, to be removed from their permanent records upon completion of probation, a few hours community service, and an anger management class.

During a fight (it's unclear who started it), a Black kid calls a White kid "cracker" and "White motherfucker." His family is unable to hire a legal pitbull; as a result he's looking at several years in prison for a race-based attack when the legal defender offers six months incarceration and a permanent criminal record. If you'd like another example, just imagine any Black person charged with a violent or sexual crime against a White person.

Most here would say that only the first example was a hate crime. Those who have bought into the commonly accepted definition would say both could (and should) be prosecuted as hate crimes. I think that the intent of hate crime laws clearly was meant to cover only the first example. But I think that as they are written, and as they will be used, they're far more likely to be aimed at minorities who commit crimes against White people.

I may have missed other discourse on this (my time for researching queer issues and queer legal issues is more limited than I would like). But it seems to me that a lot of gay rights activists have pushed for "Hate Crime" legislation without considering the danger it might pose to People of Color, and I'm sure I'm not the first person to notice this.

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