Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why Hate Crime Laws are a Bad Idea

An article on CNN's website today details how a black reporter was attacked by a white family. The reporter was doing a segment on the story of an elderly man who was allegedly killed by his grandson. The reporter being there and filming a segment incited family members to react violently.

CNN tries to make it sound like a hate crime by stating that the family "yelled racial slurs" and also by pointing out that another crew that was filming the attack, a crew that happened to be white, was not attacked.

But even a cursory review of the facts in this case call into serious question any allegations of a hate crime. I suspect that the family would have also reacted violently towards a white reporter had the white reporter been the one on their street filming. Just because the family yelled racial slurs also does not mean the attack was racially motivated. In their fury, the family was probably simply looking for any easy insult that they could throw at the reporter. Also, they were probably too busy attacking the reporter to even go after the crew filming the actual attack.

But, if this had taken place in a state with hate crime laws, the family members could very well have been charged with a hate crime in addition to the assault charges. Hate crime laws provide harsher penalties for crimes that appear to be motivated due to factors like a person's race.

But, as has been said before, correlation does not equal causation. Just because a perpetrator happens to be white and the victim happens to be black and a few racial slurs were yelled in the process does not mean that the crime was racially motivated. Having hate crime statutes makes it far too easy to attach the hate crime label to any crime that involves a minority victim.

Also, as a rule, I think that we should be focusing on punishing the actual crime, not trying to punish the motives behind the crime. Trying to punish motives delves into murky territory as it is very difficult to conclusively prove what a person's mindset is.

Luckily, however, this crime took place in South Carolina, where there are no hate crime laws. So, the attackers are being held on the charges that they should be held for: assault and battery.


fromwembley said...

If there are going to be hate crime laws then they should be applied evenly. There are many black criminals who target Whites and these are hate crimes.

As for the White family that attacked the black reporter - good for them! Reporters often try to stir things up. Reporters also act like they are above the law and are definitely pushy. I wish this country supported freedom from the press as much as it promotes freedom of the press.

Madeline said...

I agree with your point that if a state wants to have hate crime laws, that they must be applied to all groups of people, not just to the supposed "majority" groups.

While I don't advocate violence as a solution to pushy reporters, I can certainly understand where this family was coming from. Reporters do tend to stir up trouble and seem to believe that they are above the law.

Thanks for commenting!