Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hate Crimes Bill: Should "Haters" get more time or less?

Congress has passed a hate crimes bill which gives money to state, local and Indian law enforcement agencies to help prosecute hate crimes. According to the bill, prosecution of a hate crime applies to “Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person.” The bill not only allows more money to be spent on prosecution of hate crimes but also allows for stricter sentences.
However, opponents of the bill point out that it promotes inequality among victims. According to the bill a villain can get more time for murdering a homosexual or an African American than they would get for murdering a heterosexual or a white person. This allows the homosexual or the African American, and all others covered under the bill, more protection under the law. In an attempt to “prevent” hate crimes and combat hate, are we, as a society, spreading inequality and discrimination, which contributes to hate?

Taking it in another direction, Dozier states “Hate is a kind of anger phobia…Today, however, a phobia is treated as a mental health problem if it significantly interferes with normal functioning. Using this comparison, hate should be treated the same way. In fact, it might be wise to expand the concept of phobia to encompass…persistent, irrational hatred.” Later, in his book Dozier mentions, “Hate…can be delusional. In acting out their hatred, people may honestly believe they are doing the right thing.” Examples of this are Hitler and Pol Pot. If this is true, if hate is delusional or a mental health issue, should persons convicted of hate crimes get more time or less? For other defendants with mental insanity or defects the court takes those issues into account. Should “haters” be allowed to plead some sort of insanity?


ERose said...

While I do believe that those who are criminally insane should have the right to plead insanity, I think that hatred is a normal faculty of the human brain and should not be considered in the same category.

The issue here is the fact that the US is institutionalizing hatred in its lawmaking process. Much like the West Virginia case mentioned in an earlier blog, law enforcement and investigators often assume that crimes between people of different backgrounds are hate crimes. This assumption provides for the perpetuation of hatred and prejudice in this country.

By making laws that raise the severity of a crime based on hate, we are making racial, sexual, and religious prejudice a mainstream issue. By institutionalizing hate, prejudice, and an awareness of our differences, we are taking a giant step back from being created equal.

jolz said...

I agree with erose. I refuse to believe every act of hate is as a result of mentally insane individuals. Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably looking at human nature through a pair of rose colored glasses and is unwilling to accept the inherent cruelty of human beings.

Dozier also says that hate was a product of the limbic system, which is a primitive part of the brain. If he is in fact correct then everyone with a limbic system, ie every human being, has the capacity to hate. So why do some hate and others do not? From the Dozier reading I think it is because hate, a feature of the primitive neural system, lies dormant in everyone. It is only activated under certain circumstances and conditions. How one reacts to these situations depends on how their own well being may be affected. Therefore, unless it is medically proven that a person is mentally insane, I think he or she should not automatically be allowed to plead insanity for committing a hate crime.

In addition, although I do not justify the law’s partiality to blacks and homosexuals, I can definitely see why it would be considered. These are two groups of people that have been victims of hate crimes more than any other. Partiality towards these groups was probably an attempt to curb or lessen the attacks on them. I will reiterate that I do not agree with this for this is not a step towards equal rights for all.