Fight hate by ending "hate crime" laws
By Thomas M. Sipos
Racial hatred was once a serious problem in America, manifested in lynchings and government-enforced segregation. But the pendulum to "combat hate" has now swung into a Kafkaesque Orwellian Zone. Our laws encourage shakedown artists and charlatans, while exacerbating rather than mitigating race relations.
Consider comedian Michael "Kramer" Richards, who shouted the N-word to black hecklers in his audience. Attorney Gloria Allred now represents two hecklers and is threatening to sue Richards for "assaulting" her clients with "verbal missiles." Then there's firefighter Tennie Pierce, awarded $2.7 million by the Los Angeles City Council because Pierce claimed he was "racially harassed" when colleagues tricked him into eating dog food. It later emerged that Pierce himself often engaged in insensitive firehouse antics, taunting a bound firefighter whose clothes was scrawled with: "Oy Vey, I'm Gay!" While the city council reconsiders its settlement offer, Pierce's attorney is threatening to sue for a larger amount from a "downtown jury" (code for "black jury") unless the city meets her extortion demands.
Extortion is the right word. Hate crimes can either include legal speech that is illegal due to its context (usually the workplace, though Allred claims that the comedy club made her clients a "captive audience") or an illegal act, such as assault, that's punished more severely because it was motivated by hatred toward certain protected groups (i.e., killing your boss because you hate her is not a "hate crime"). Perhaps because hate crime laws are passed to appease activists, they attract two kinds of extortionists: those seeking money and those with an agenda. Jesse Jackson has made a career out of extorting money by crying "racism" (see Ken Timmerman's Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson). So has Al Sharpton, who in 1998 was found guilty of libel by a New York court for his role in the Tawana Brawley hate crime hoax. Ironically, publicist Howard Rubenstein has advised Richards to seek forgiveness from Jackson and Sharpton for his comedy club meltdown.
Hate crimes laws encourage political grandstanding. Governor Schwarzenegger called GOP congressional candidate Tan D. Nguyen's letter to 14,000 Latino voters (in which he wrote: "if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time") a "hate crime."
Hate crime laws encourage false reports. Last October, police arrested University of New Hampshire student Breanne Coventry Snell for falsely reporting that she'd suffered an anti-Semitic attack after leaving the Hillel Jewish center. Universities seem to incubate hate crime hoaxes. A few years earlier, Leah Miller, a black student at San Francisco State, wrote racial epithets on her own door because she wanted "to be a part of something," and Claremont McKenna College professor Kerri Dunn spray-painted her own car with racial and anti-Semitic epithets before reporting it as a hate crime.
Hate crime laws are unevenly enforced, further fueling racial tensions. Three Long Beach women (ages 19 to 21) were beaten last Halloween by 20 to 40 black youths while hurling racial epithets. Had a white gang beaten three black women, it might have made national TV news, with the D.A. immediately announcing hate crime charges. But when police arrested several youths for the attack, hate crime allegations were not included in the district attorney's filing. "Outrage over the lack of hate crime charges was swift," reported the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Hate crime charges were eventually filed, but residents were further outraged when City Councilwoman Rae Gabelich tried to limit advance notice of a public hearing on the assaults. "I was trying to keep it out of the press," she admitted. This double standard plays into the hands of racists. According to LBReport.com, the Press-Telegram article was emailed across the nation and linked by white supremacist groups.
Defenders of hate crime laws claim that our legal system has long considered the criminal's mental state when determining guilt or punishment, but these people confuse intent (Did you intend for the crime to occur?) with motive (Why did you intend for the crime to occur?). Premeditated murder is punished more severely than accidental homicide, but we've never cared why you premeditated a murder (greed or hatred). Motive is useful as evidence, but was never itself punished.
Let's return to tradition and fight hate -- by abolishing hate crime laws.
Thomas M. Sipos is Vice Chair of the Los Angeles County Libertarian Party. His bio and contact info may be found at http://www.communistvampires.com/author.htm.