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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why "Hate" Crimes are Different than "Regular" Crimes

There are plenty of people out there who bemoan the term "hate crime". They ask bumper sticker questions like "Aren't all crimes hate crimes?" The answer is no. This post is for people who don't see the difference.

Most murders have a motive. Money, jealousy, revenge. There's a back story to their situation that brings them to a point where they lose control and kill someone. But the target of that urge to kill is very specific. In a hate crime murder the motivation can still be money, jealousy or revenge but the pool of potential victims is vastly wider making the person A LOT more dangerous. A dozen guys who want to kill Daryl is a danger to far fewer people than a dozen guys who want to kill everyone who looks like Daryl. My apologies to any Daryls out there.

If James Craig Anderson was not black he would not have been run over by a pick up truck. Families in New York would not have been targeted for firebombing if they were not Muslim or Hindu. And Vincent Chin would not have been murdered by Detroit auto workers if he didn't look Japanese like his killers thought.

If it seems like determining something as a hate crime is giving a certain group of people extra protection that others don't get you probably don't know what it's like to feel uncomfortable or even unsafe simply for being what you are.

Video added 3/24:


  1. I'm Asian and have felt uncomfortable for being so, though probably not as those in the past. Nevertheless, I do not feel that adding the label of 'hate' to 'crime' brings any benefit. On the contrary, I find it a detriment to justice in general. Those who perpetrate what would otherwise be called a 'hate crime' are perpetrating crimes and justice should be served. Justice should be blind for all our sakes.

  2. What it does is it acknowledges the motive behind the crime. I'm not advocating that hate crimes would be designated its own crime but as a modifier to a crime. One shouldn't be found guilty of murder AND a hate crime but for murder classified as a hate crime and the sentence would be determined accordingly.

    If you ascribe to the idea that there should be no determination of hate crimes at all and that people should be strictly judged on their actions alone, like Andrew Sullivan recently argued (, then what would be the difference between, say, vehicular manslaughter and political assassination? The action is you caused someone to die. Should that be the only factor?

    1. Part of the reason to want some crimes to be designated as hate crimes is to highlight that as a society we disapprove of hate of a group. I like your phrasing, Mr. Toyoshima, that 'hate' should be thought of as a modifier ... an adjective to the specific crime. It is not important in terms of determining whether there was a crime, but as one of the factors in determining the sentence for that crime after guilt is determined.

  3. In some school, I was harassed and shunned, because people perceived me, as a member of a minority group. I won't say that I know what it is [to be harassed + shunned, for being in a minority group].
    In my view, Ms. Whoopi Goldberg said something, that is important. Goldberg, who is black, once told a white woman, that Goldberg + the woman "lived in different worlds".
    In a way, I think She is right.
    There are some traditions + opinions, in the government + society, that are unfair to non-white people.
    I am mostly white, so most U.S. people will treat me as a white person.
    But Goldberg has a point. Let me offer a theory: Let's say I am in a party, in a store's parking lot. A huge white man, with a club, says he is going to hit all the black people he sees.
    Now, I am scared to death, at this man, since he is talking about attacking people for no reason. But, I will suggest, that any black people and part-black people, in the crowd, will be more scared than I am. They will be more scared than me, since he is talking about doing violence to black people, + I'm not a black person. he is singling out black people, for his threat.

    His verbal threat is a crime, since he is threatening to do crime to people. But he also makes his crime a hate crime, when he threatens a group of people, who aren't of his race. Choosing to do crime, or threaten crime, against a group of people, who aren't in your race or group, makes the crime a hate crime, in my opinion.

    If you like, you can also use groups of other people, other than black(s) and white(s), in my theory, above.