I'm annoyed - but also challenged - by an editorial on hate crimes at CNN.com. The authors write:
A hate crime occurs when an individual intentionally targets a victim or their property because of his or her actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability or sexual orientation.
. . .
Our research has established that hate crimes are a qualitatively unique category of offenses. Compared to non-bias motivated crimes these crimes are more likely to involve violence, injury, hospitalization, psychological trauma and a greater risk of retaliatory attacks, which can often spill across municipal borders. And while we cannot say whether hate crimes overall are actually increasing, there does appear to be an increase in the most violent hate crimes.
In 2007, hate-motivated homicides claimed nine lives, up from three in 2006, and the last year has seen a steady stream of violent plots and attacks against symbolic targets by hardened hate-mongers.
. . .
But there is something more to hate crime's harms that cannot be completely captured by statistics or criminological studies. As the Holocaust Museum attack demonstrates, hate crimes threaten pluralistic democracies in a way that other crimes do not.
Unlike many other crimes, they are at once discriminatory and terroristic. As law professor James Weinstein observed: "The effect of Kristallnacht on German Jews was greater than the sum of the damage to buildings and assaults on individual victims."
Violence and threats that destabilize the bonds between citizens and the democratic institutions that they share are worthy of additional punishment and federal assistance. Moreover, victims of hate-motivated violence are entitled to legal protection no matter where they reside.
There's more at the link.
Personally, I have a problem with any so-called 'hate crime' being defined as such. To me, the crime is what's done: assault, murder, robbery, etc. The motivation behind the crime is basically irrelevant. Someone who's been murdered because of his or her race, sexual orientation or gender is no more or less dead than someone who's been murdered in order to steal his or her car!
I believe the punishment should be the same for the crime under all circumstances, regardless of why it was committed. If one punishes one murder more severely than another because of 'hate crime' elements, isn't one basically saying that it was a worse crime than a murder committed for other reasons? How is that possible? Aren't the two victims just as dead as one another? And isn't that demeaning to the victim of the latter crime?
I'd love to hear your opinion about this, readers. Is the presence of 'hate crime' factors a sufficient cause to impose stronger penalties for the same act? Or should all similar crimes be punished alike, regardless of motivation? Please let us hear your views in Comments.