Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring Cleaning, Getting Rid of Hate Crime Terminology

{Writer's note: The Washington Post challenged us to think of what we should get rid of this Spring. Here is my entry.}

We have all seen the news stories with graphic details regarding a young man being beaten because he was gay or the dangling of nooses around trees in the South. These actions against another human are motivated by hate. However, these are not the only crimes motivated by hate or its many gradations.

Bullying, beating or terrorizing a person doesn’t cause the recipient less panic just because he is the same ethnicity as the assailant. These crimes stem from the idea that the other person is lesser than or not as worthy to have the same liberties as the bully. The crime manifests from the fear that the recipient’s influence on people, systems and governments may upset the balance of power.

This applies to white collar crimes as much as to violent crimes. The possibility that racism and other “hate” crimes are the only ones motivated by hate diminishes our need to look to the root causes for other crimes. Take the current economic situation. The motivation for the actions, some criminal, is hate; total contempt for the effect our actions have on one another.

Why call one action a hate crime and not the other? Society is trying to assuage its guilt and shame for participating in, condoning or ignoring when certain groups had their rights, freedoms and sense-of-self abused. To atone for our involvement, whether covert or overt in these heinous crimes, we want to stand on the bully pulpit, declare that the actions of the new perpetrator is above the pale and punish them more harshly, just to prove our point.

This spring, let us rid ourselves of the collective misperception regarding hate crime terminology. Let us remember that all crimes are a motivated by a lack of compassion and love toward our fellow humans.