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Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will send you to jail

By Nicholas Sanchez
web posted August 27, 2001

As an Orthodox Christian, I firmly believe in the necessity of confession. And so herewith I offer a public confession of one of my past misdeeds, a chapter from my misspent youth. During my sophomore year of college, I initiated an effort to found a chapter of the College Republicans on my campus at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. This campaign was met with fierce resistance by members of the student government. "There is no College Democrats, so why should students who belong to the GOP be granted recognition and allowed office space and room to gather for meetings?" was the main argument that I had to combat.

I countered that Democrats were free to start their own club, if they so wished. As were the lesbians. The Indians--or, excuse me--the Native Americans. Or any other group that met the guidelines for recognition by the college. And if the members of the student government were so concerned with political imbalance, why didn't one of them step down and give me their seat, since they were obviously tilted far, far to the Left. My cohorts and I were shortly thereafter given the imprimatur by the governing board and were up and running.

Now here comes the confession part. Not long after our chapter was organized and officers were elected (my peers elected me as the club president), I was contacted by a fellow student of Puerto Rican descent. He phoned my dorm room, began screaming obscenities at me, and called me a racist - all because some of my friends and I started the College Republicans. Initially I was shocked by the call. Later I was just mad as hell.

I found out his number, called him back--after imbibing a bit, no doubt--and proceeded to let him know what I thought of him, his homeland, and cast aspersions upon his mother's fidelity to his father. Furthermore, I went on, I was going to do everything I could to send him back to Puerto Rico.

My actions were dumb. They were irrational. And they were also sophomoric. My sole defense is that I was a sophomore at the time.

I forgot about the incident and went about my merry business, lobbing the occasional bomb and doing my best to earn a reputation as the most conservative member of the student body. At the very end of the semester, just as I was preparing to go home for Christmas break, I got a phone call from the local police. "Um, is this Mr. Sanchez? Mr. Rico Sanchez?" asked the voice on the other end of the phone. "Why, yes it is," I replied. (I changed my name to Nicholas after entering the Eastern Christian Church.)

The gentleman on the other end of the phone then casually proceeded to tell me that he was a representative of law enforcement and that I was being served notice that a fellow student was charging me with "ethnic intimidation." He went on to say that I would have to report to court to account for myself in a few weeks. Huh?!?

Sure enough, the Puerto Rican student whom I had verbally berated felt that I had intimidated him. And because I mentioned his ancestry, the intimidation was ethnic.

When I showed up for my court date, I introduced myself to the prosecutor. We chatted amiably for a couple of minutes until he finally asked which case was mine. He pulled out the file, looked at the name of the student who filed the complaint, then looked at my name. After three or four double-takes, he murmured something that sounded like "You have got to be kidding me!"

The prosecutor looked at me and lamented the stupidity of the situation: one Hispanic bringing charges against another Hispanic for "ethnic intimidation." He proposed a quick solution: the charge would be lowered to "calling at an inconvenient hour," and I would be assessed a small fine and be off on my merry way. I quickly agreed to his offer.

Since that time I have been convinced of two things: a) there is at least one lawyer out there with common sense; and b) so-called "hate crime" laws are inane because there is no practical application of these laws. This story comes to mind because of events that are currently transpiring in Adams County, Idaho. A man by the name of Lonny Rae--who is white--admitted recently to calling another man--who is black--the "N"-word. And now he is facing a possible five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

What led up to this is that Mr. Rae's wife, Kimberly Rae, is the sports editor for the Adams County Record, a local newspaper. She covered a game in which three referees (one of whom is the black man in question) were brought in from out of town to cover a local football game.

Mrs. Rae felt that some of the calls were questionable, and in fact the local team lost the game and their chance to go to the state playoffs. And so Mrs. Rae took a picture of the three refs. One of them--the black referee--didn't like this and demanded that she give her camera to him. She said no.

Obviously this ref doesn't know that, when women say no, they mean no. He grabbed her. And in a very ungentlemanly manner, he began to wrestle her. (Never mind that he outweighs her by more than one hundred pounds and is more than a foot taller than her.) Another referee eventually convinced his colleague to let her go.

Mrs. Rae told her husband, who was not nearby during the altercation, what happened. Understandably, he was upset and went after the man who manhandled his wife, causing burn marks on her neck. When he got to the locker room he demanded that they "bring that n----- up here." However, the two men never met face to face. Lonny Rae ended up taking his wife to the hospital for treatment, and she was given painkillers.

The next day, Mr. Rae called the police to press charges. To his surprise, not only were no charges brought up against the referee, but it turns out that the local prosecutor was bringing him up on charges of "malicious harassment," a felony charge. recap. A man, who happens to be black, grabs a woman and demands that she hand over her personal property. And when she says "no," he proceeds to shake the living daylights out of her. Her husband comes to her defense, and, because he uses an unfortunate word, is brought up on charges because of the distress that he caused his wife's attacker.

We've all heard the common lament, "What is this country coming to?" Well, here is the answer. If you are going to threaten acts of violence, be sure that it is only against members of your own race. And if you are a black or Hispanic, feel free to do whatever you want. Unless, of course, you are a conservative Hispanic. ESR

Nicholas Sanchez is the director of Development at the Free Congress Foundation.

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