Monday, October 23

Another category of committing violence: is this one a hate crime?

Belledame222 wrote about the murder of a black gay man who wandered into a dangerous neighborhood. She quoted two conflicting opinions as to whether it was a hate crime:

A teenager who knew the assailants told The New York Times that the attack wasn’t a hate crime against blacks or gays: "They were looking to rob him. They didn’t think he would fight back if he was gay."

Man, that's almost getting into the territory I decided not to cover (at least, I think I didn't go there) the other day when I thought about asking if choosing a woman for violence because she belonged to a social category that seems statistically less likely to resist made acts of violence against a particular social category "hate crimes." This kid thought not. On the other hand, there are people who think so:

But prosecutors in this hate crime case don’t have to prove that the assailants don’t like African Americans or gays, Hynes explained. Prosecutors just have to prove that Sandy was targeted because he was gay or African American. "If you select a member of a class because you think they’re particularly vulnerable—that’s the hate crime."

I don't know! I just...don't...know. Maybe it's a matter of degree--like Dr. B.H. Tatum demonstrated with powerful logic, if you're not fighting against unfair ways that members of "________" social category (not yours), and you're just neutrally taking the benefits you have as a member of your social category, you're still being "_______ist." That's just the way it works. Anything but living in a way that fights the continuation of those unfair advantages is living in an immoral way.

But then again, it might not be immoral & bad enough that it should get you in trouble with the law. I mean, most people would agree that it's okay that there's space for bad actions between saintliness and punishment-on-earth, right? And "get you in trouble with the law" is the reason we have a word like "hate crime," right? Because we expect that punishing people who targeted a social category of victims, rather than targeting victims randomly or based on the fact that they were looking the other way or something, will change violent behavior to a more random state, right? (And the assumption is that once violence is more random, it'll be easier to fight or will somewhat die out because people are reluctant to commit it against people they identify with.)

Or is that the only reason we have "hate crime?" Bob Herbert's article made me think that there's more to it. Just calling a particular method of choosing a target by social category part of "hate crimeyness" can create allies in groups who share a social category with the perpetrator. It can create activists out of people who weren't activists! And activists are the people who make violence go from category-based to random. This is especially true when the perpetrator's category was dominant and the victims' categories were subordinate. Dominant allies change minds. They write newspaper articles and actually get them published in magazines that people're told are good enough to bother reading. They get on TV. Etc.

Sooooooo........where should the line be drawn at calling things "hate crimes" because they were targeted against members of a social category? I mean, if the targeting is based on an inaccurate and damaging (when gay people internalize it & start to become it) stereotype that gay people are weak & polite to a fault, should we use the term "hate crime" to horrify people and get them to start saying, "Y'know what? I'm straight, and gay people are NOT weak & polite to a fault, and how dare you other straight people think that to the point that you'd violate them based on that assumption? Stop it!"

Or is there only so much action that we can squeeze out of people? Can we only get people to say, "Y'know what? I'm straight, and gay people are NOT inferior to us and appropriate for hitting with 2x4s, and how dare you other straight people think that to the point that you'd violate them based on that assumption? Stop it!" but not go so far as the quote I put earlier? I don't know. I just don't know. I really want people to see common links between common themes, but boy is that hard to do, and not wear people out, in less than 200 pages. (That's how many it took Dr. Tatum to develop a good, solid, persuasive book doing so.....)


belledame222 said...

The logic behind tagging something a "hate crime," as i understand it, is like this: it's not so much the motivation of the attackers toward the individual in question (although yes, inevitable that factors), but the chilling effect the crime has on a whole host of other people as well.

iow: a man is robbed at gunpoint and killed; clearly it was about money, and/or the criminal was disturbed. that may make people a little more cautious about going out in general, but it doesn't affect any particular folks more than others.

a black man is lynched: this is a horrible murder, and it's also a -message:- *This could be you, so watch your step.*

belledame222 said...

...which you were talking about in the post below, i notice now.

Katie said...

Your mention of scaring a population goes to something I mentioned in from one of my later posts.

I said, "Singling out girls for shootings is a "hate crime" that should petrify any parent who happens to find themselves responsible for the well-being of someone born into the category called "girls" (and make them want, more than anything else they want in this world, to change the probability of someone in their culture wanting to commit such a hate crime)"

But...that's not true. I mean, we aren't seeing parents of all political stripes saying, "WTF? I have a girl, and I want her as safe as a boy! Do something, people!" the way we'd see a white mother saying, for instance, "WTF? I have a 'black' kid, and I want him/her as safe as a 'white' kid! Do something, people!"

If the scaring thing were a widely agreed-upon definition of a hate crime, I'd expect to have seen a lot of "do something!" from upper-middle-class parents of girls. I can think of 3 reasons why I haven't:

1) People don't actually think that something that makes a population (or a population's loved ones / guardians) extra-scared for the safety of its members is worth giving a special name.

2) People don't actually think that something that makes a population (or its guardians) extra-scared for the safety of its members is worth giving the same name as we give to violent acts when we name them because of target selection (rather than effect on bystanders).

2) People think "hate crime" is a useful label that helps people understand what category of "something" the actions needed fall into, but they don't think the right actions get associated with it. And instead of protesting the way our government & society handle "hate crimes" (extra punishment in addition to the original sentence for the crime), they try to avoid that effect by preventing the cause--that is, by refusing to give something the label "hate crime" even though they think it deserves it because they know the end result (and think that end result is innefective, unfair, etc.)

belledame222 said...

well, one difference there is that the white mother of the black child is confronting the empathic experience of being or at least being closely related to being black for the first time; the hetero parents of a same-race/ethnicity child, which includes one mother, have become acclimated to the experience of being female and of living intimately with a woman, respectively.

belledame222 said...

and i think all three of those reasons are correct. also the usual kind of resentment: so, i don't belong to any of those "protected" categories. what if something happens to ME, huh? HUH?

and, too, "hate" is considered an emotion; there is this widespread not-quite-articulate belief that emotions (i.e. inner life, motivations) per se are irrelevant. never mind that this is an action, or that in fact of course we weigh motivation (i.e. inner life) when judging crime and punishment all the time; why else would "first degree" versus "second degree" murder matter?

maybe it would make sense to just regroup and call it "terrorism." because that's what it is, really.

terror starts at home.

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