Friday, April 13, 2007

Hate Crime Prevention

Forgive the canned language but I thought I should share:

Did you know that current federal hate crime laws don't protect everyone?

The US has had a federal hate crimes law on the books since 1969, and it has never included crimes targeting victims because of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. Congress is about to consider a bill that would change that. It would also help under-funded law enforcement officials investigate and prosecute hate crimes. Tell your representative to support this bill.

Here's something else that may shock you -- one in six hate crimes are motivated by the victim's sexual orientation. And currently, the federal government can't even investigate most of these crimes or help bring the criminals to justice. In past years, conservative right wing groups have blocked attempts to expand hate crimes laws. They're gearing up for another fight now, so we need to make sure our representatives do the "right" thing and support this landmark law.

In my mind, there's no question that including all hate crimes in federal law doesn't constitute "special treatment," as some right wing groups would have us believe - there's nothing special about wanting to live safely and without fear of violence. That's something everyone deserves.

That last paragraph is interesting. Because of the political leanings of Friendster Guy, I now tend to take a second look at what the government is doing. On the one hand, I can understand someone thinking that murder is murder or assault is assault, and that it should be punished accordingly. However, if someone is going to give me "special treatment" because of my gender or sexual orientation, i.e. they are going to hurt me simply because I am who I am, not because I did something to prompt it, then they should get "special treatment" when it comes to sentencing.

Sure, there are crazy people out there who do bad things simply because they are crazy. But then there are "normal" people who do bad things simply because they hate something about a person. It scares them so they have to destroy it. Having seen first hand some of the hate and rage people can harbor against other people, specifically homosexuals, for no reason whatsoever except prejudice, I support including sexual orientation in hate crime laws.

What's interesting is that I'm hesitating at including gender. I'm trying to understand why I'm hesitating. The only thing that keeps going through my head is how many hate crimes that would end up being. Would every rape, every incident of domestic violence, every crime against a woman be a hate crime? When I was assaulted in high school, it wasn't hate that I experienced, it was indifference. The boys/men involved didn't hate me. It didn't seem to be anger that prompted them. It was pure indifference. They didn't even see me as a person. I wasn't different from any other woman that was going to happen by. They didn't care who I was. All they cared about was my gender. And I guess, in that sense, it was like a hate crime because all that mattered was that I was female, not that I'd done anything to provoke them. I suppose if they had any respect for women, they wouldn't have done what they did. You can't respect anything you hate.

So maybe it was a hate crime.

I'd welcome your thoughts.

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