In his article, Howard P. Berkowitz explains the need for society to support hate-crime laws. Berkowitz situates his argument for hate-crime laws by explaining the seriousness of bias-motivated crimes, stating, “a hate crime is more than an attack on an individual. It is an assault on an entire community.” While he realizes critics of hate-crime laws argue that these laws “are a strong-handed attempt to impose a politically correct ideology and an affront to basic constitutional rights,” he counterattacks stating that “in making this flawed argument, the critics demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of hate crime legislation as well as the First Amendment.” Although he realizes the argument against hate-crime laws, Berkowitz believes that these laws are necessary to protect minority groups and others from being targeted based on bigotry.
Berkowitz builds his arguments by explaining why there is a need for hate-crime laws and the reason why critics’ reasoning against hate-crime laws are flawed. He explains that because “crimes predicated on race and ethnicity are becoming more and more virulent in this country,” there has to be something done to prevent these numbers from continuing to grow. He continues by stating “everyone agrees that something, legislative or otherwise, must be done to stem the tide of hate…strong hate-crimes legislation is one answer.” Stronger hate-crime legislation will reinforce the idea that society does not allow for criminals to attack an individual based on his race, religion, national origin or color. Berkowitz realizes that many critics of hate-crime laws argue that these laws “punish individuals for their beliefs and their speech.” However, he reasons, “hate-crimes legislation does not in any way target or punish speech…it is only when they act on their prejudices or callously select their victims based on personal characteristics such as race or religion that hate-crimes statutes come into play.” He explains that “the intent of penalty-enhancement hate-crime laws is not only to reassure targeted groups by imposing serious punishment of hate-crime perpetrators but also to deter these crimes by demonstrating that they will be dealt with seriously and swiftly.” Berkowitz’s goal is to support his reasoning for penalty-enhancement hate-crime laws and defuse the criticisms that state it goes against the First Amendment.
Berkowitz’s goal is to garner support for increasing penalty against hate-crime criminals because of the seriousness of the crimes. These laws are to protect Americans and allow them to feel safe and not targeted victims based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Berkowitz, Howard P. “Hate-Crime Laws Should Be Supported.” Hate Groups. Ed. Mary E. Williams. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Opposing Viewpoints.Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.