Thank you, Richard Cohen, for this eloquent piece on the sheer lunacy of hate crime laws. Why must we criminalize the thoughts of people who commit physical crimes? It serves no purpose other than to offer more protection to one class of people than another.
Sometimes the absurdity of hate crimes laws is revealed. Remember the case of James Byrd, the black man from Texas who was chained to a truck and barbarically dragged to his death by three white men? That crime, already a capital offense, led to the passage of hate crimes laws in Texas over the principled objection of then-Gov. George W. Bush.
For that stand, the NAACP fiercely criticized Bush and implied he was a racist. Ironically, two of the three murderers were sentenced to death and the third to life in prison. What would hate crime laws have accomplished?
It seems to me this whole notion of increasing punishment for crimes committed against certain classes of people is downright un-American. It makes us feel better but it accomplishes nothing:
Hate-crime laws combine the touching conservative belief in the unerring efficacy of deterrence (which rises to its absurd and hideous apogee with executions) with the liberal belief that when it comes to particular groups, basic rights may be suspended.
But don’t dare say that or you will be called a bigot, a sexist, a homophobe — even if you believe in laws that will put the perpetrators to death. Oh, I forgot. Lots of people who believe in hate crimes laws are against capital punishment.
Do the crime, then do the time.