Hate Crime Laws: A Need For Change

Hate Crime Laws: A Need For Change

            The phrase hate crime might be self-explanatory. These crimes are motivated by strong dislike towards certain individuals. Hate crimes stir up many issues regarding the law enforcements of these crimes. While much debate is about what constitutes as hate crimes, there has also been debates about whether there should be hate-crime laws and penalty enhancement for hate crime offenders. However, there is no doubt that hate crimes are still prevalent in today’s society. According to the FBI’s annual report on hate crime statistics for 2012, although the number of hate crimes has decreased from the previous year, the numbers are still relatively high. The report states that there were 7,164 hate crime victims reported as opposed to the 7,713 reported in 2011. It further investigates the motivations behind these crimes and it shows of the 5,790 single-bias incidents, approximately 48.3 percent were racially motivated. In addition, about 19.6 percent of these incidents were motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, 19.0 percent were religion biased, 11.5 percent were ethnicity and or national origin biased, and 1.6 percent was disability biased (FBI). Although the number of hate crimes have decreased from 2011 to 2012, there is still a need to enforce greater hate-crime laws to ensure there continues to be a downwards trend in the number of hate crimes committed. However, many argue against enforcing greater hate-crime laws, stating these laws are ambiguous and interferes with one’s natural right of freedom of speech. But, the benefits of properly enforced hate-crime laws outweigh the arguments made against them. Hate-crime laws are essential in order to decrease the number of hate-motivated crimes but they must be enforced in an impartial manner to ensure fairness of those being accused and the victims.

One of the strongly held beliefs against hate-crime laws is that it interferes with the First Amendment. The First Amendment is people’s right to freedom of speech, allowing them to express their beliefs on issues. Those arguing against hate-crime laws are stating these laws are taking away their basic rights to express themselves for they will be charged if they condemn or speak out against a certain group of people. However, that is a misconception. Hate-crime laws are not ways to limit a person’s freedom of speech. Rather, it only punishes those that act upon their hate. Understanding people’s concerns about the issue of these laws and people’s constitutional rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled hate-crime laws will not punish people’ verbal dislike towards others. “The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the 1993 case, Wisconsin v. Mitchell, that well-drafted hate crime laws are constitutional and do not punish speech. Rather they enhance the penalties only for acts that are already considered crimes” (Levin and McDevitt). In this ruling, the Supreme Court clearly states hate-crime laws will only penalize actions, not speech. Furthermore, Senator Chuck Robb stated, “This legislation does not allow individuals to be prosecuted for their hateful thoughts, rather it allows them to be punished for their hateful acts. Willfully inflicting harm on another human being based on hate is not protected free speech” (qtd. Religious Tolerance). Senator Chuck Robb further stresses hateful actions will be the only reasons people are charged under hate-crime laws. The argument of hate-crime laws stripping people of their basic rights is invalid because this legislation emphasizes people will not be penalize for their thoughts or beliefs.

Another argument against hate-crime laws is that these laws are creating unequal protection for different groups of people. People argue that implementing hate-crime laws is saying one group of people deserves extra protection than others. Robert H. Knight, the director of cultural studies at the Family Research Council, an educational organization that promotes the traditional family, states “It sets up special classes of victims, who are afforded a higher level of government protection than others victimized by similar crimes violating the concept of equal protection.”  As a promoter of traditional families, it is implied that Knight does not agree with homosexual relations. In saying the laws protect one group more than another, Knight infers groups such as homosexual are getting greater protection. However, this argument is flawed. All groups are protected under hate-crime laws. However, certain groups, such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), do experience greater chances of attacks. “The SPLC’s [Southern Poverty Law Center] analysis of 14 years of hate crime data found that gays and lesbians, or those perceived to be gay, are more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent hate crime as Jews or blacks; more than four times as likely as Muslims; and 14 times as likely as Latinos” (SPLC). This finding illustrates that the LGBT group are greater targets for hate-based attacks. The law does not state it gives extra protection to people in the LGBT category, as implied by Knight, or just minority groups. It is because certain groups experience greater chances of attacks it seems that hate-crime laws are targeted to protect certain groups over others.

Some people try to explain why others oppose of hate-crime laws. Dr. Joe Wenke states, “Lately a lot of the opposition to hate crime laws is directed at the fact that these laws protect people from being victimized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The people who oppose these laws don’t want gay or transgender people to be protected as a minority.” He supports his assertion by giving an example of an article by Dr. Robert Gagnon, an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Basing his beliefs on the Bible, he opposes of homosexual acts (Wenke). In “25 Reasons to Oppose Hate Crime Legislation,” Dr. Gagnon claims that bad things will happen “in homosexuals and transgender people are protected by hate crime laws” (Wenke). Dr. Gagnon’s reasoning against hate-crime laws is subjective because he bases arguments on only certain groups when hate-crime laws do not apply exclusively to homosexuals and transgender people. His argument is a logical flaw, because hate-crime laws do not just apply to a particular group. In his reasoning against hate-crime laws, Dr. Gagnon only focuses on homosexuals and transgender people. His opinions show his dislike towards homosexuals and transgender people and apply it to his argument against hate-crime laws, making his argument a logical flaw.

There are many arguments against hate-crime laws. However, when put into perspective, many of these arguments are flawed. Hate-crimes are serious problems that need to be addressed. In order to promote greater tolerance towards all people, hate-crime laws are needed. However, these laws must be enforced in a manner that guarantees fairness. Because hate-crimes do not target just an individual but also communities the victim identifies with, this type of crime becomes a societal issue. If not addressed properly, the number of hate-motivated crimes will only continue to rise. These laws are not made to protect only certain groups; it is proposed to ensure people of all identities are accepted. By implementing hate-crime laws, policy makers and law enforcers are emphasizing intolerance is unacceptable if acted upon. In a society that promotes peace, the first step is to be tolerant of diversity. Hate-crime laws are to ensure people are treated equally.

Works Cited

“2012 Hate Crime Statistics: Incidents and Offense.” FBI. FBI, 05 Nov. 2013. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.

Knight, Robert H. “Hate Crime Laws Are Unnecessary.” Homosexuality. Ed. Helen Cothran. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2003. Current Controversies. Rpt. from “testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Regarding the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999.” 1999. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 2 Dec. 2013

“Southern Poverty Law Center.” SPLC’s Intelligence Report: Gays Targeted for Hate Crimes Far More Than Any Other Minority in America. N.p., 22 Nov. 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.

Robinson, B.A. “Analysis of Article by James Williamson,a Lawyer and Former State Senator from OK.” Conservative Reaction to U.S. Hate Crime Legislation. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 4 Sept. 2009. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.

Wenke, Dr. Joe. “Haters of Hate Crime Laws.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.

Faith In Humanity

From Kate Nash’s Pink Limo Ride http://myignorantyouth.tumblr.com/page/2

The number of hate-motivated crimes being reported on the news seems to continue rising. Because of the increase in hate crimes, people are now focusing on what should be done. While some people support the need for hate-crime laws and penalty-enhancement statutes, others argue those additions will hinder the First Amendment, people’s freedom of speech. However, there is another side that compromises the two arguments and suggests there should be hate-crime laws but they must be enforced properly to avoid interference with people’s basic rights. Regardless of an individual’s stance on the issue, undoubtedly hate crimes are problems that affect victims and their loved ones in a tremendous way. In her song “Pink Limo Ride,” Kate Nash shows her position on the issue of hate crimes: it’s time for people to stand up to hate crimes and change things.

Kate Nash is an award-winning British singer as well as songwriter, musician, and actress. In 2008, she was acclaimed with the Best Female Artist award at the BRIT Awards. Nash has shown concern on various societal problems, such as using an auction on eBay to help donate money to a five-year-old girl with meningococcal disease. In addition she volunteered to set up and collected donations for people made homeless in the 2011 England riots. Her song “Pink Limo Ride” is written for her friend, Mika, who was a victim of a hate crime. To demonstrate her stance on the issue of hate crimes and show support towards her friend, Nash dedicates “Pink Limo Ride” to bring awareness to the hate crimes and prejudice present in our today’s society.

In a blog post about her song “Pink Limo Ride,” Kate Nash reveals the story behind the attack and her initial reaction upon hearing the news of Mika’s attack. She starts her blog post with, “This is a song I wrote for my friend that got beaten up defending his friend. It was a hate crime.” She continues,

“On the 13th July, Mika went out with one of his best friends, Bonnie, a beautiful girl who dresses alternatively & has a lot of tattoos. They were in a chicken shop in soho when a couple of guys took a disliking towards her alternative look. They threatened to stab her because of the way she was dressed, she was bottled, and Mika stood in & was beaten so badly he now has a fracture in his face. When I looked on facebook and saw a picture of him I cried…This next part of this piece is harder to write than describing to you how awesome my friend is. I want to say a thousand things, about how I am angry, disgusted, and how sad and sick it makes me seeing people being treated like this…I’m concerned as to how these 2 will get their confidence back after this. I can’t even imagine how they both feel. All I can do is be there for him.”

Nash uncovers her frustration and questions the reasoning behind the attack. In this post, she describes how she wanted to convey all her emotions in a piece of music and her concerns towards the issue of hate crimes. To the best of her abilities, she can only do so much to show her support towards her friends but she is determined to make change.

Kate Nash demonstrates her logical argument against hate crimes through the careful sequencing of her lyrics. The song begins by addressing the effects the hate crime has on Mika, both physically and mentally. Next, Nash encourages Mika by telling him what she will do to help him restore his confidence. She then continues to talk about the night of the incident but urges Mika not to succumb to the attack. Nash ends the song by repeatedly telling Mika what she loves about him and will help him through his recovery. Through this logical sequence, Nash not only refers to the hate attack but also shows her support for her friend. It evokes the audience to connect to how she feels towards her friend and enables them to relate to the emotions she conveys.

To effectively deliver her message, Kate Nash varies the song’s pace. Starting out mellow, the slow paced rhythm puts emphasis on the severity the effects of the hate crime. It makes the audience listen more attentively to the lyrics. However, whenever she addresses Mika, the pace speeds up to a more upbeat pace. This uplifting pace during her message to Mika in effect shows her support and encouragement towards him. It then slows down once again, almost as if she was having a conversation with the audience, when she begins to address the hate crime itself again. However, she decides to end the song in the same uplifting manner she used when she addresses Mika to bring a more positive energy to Mika and the audience.

Using slow, mellow tempo and strong lyrics, Kate Nash combines the two elements to deliver powerful messages about the effects of hate crimes. Beginning the song with, “Sometimes, sometime it’s hard to keep your head up/Yeah you’ve been hurt before/ You lost your faith in humanity/ And it’s taken it’s [sic] turn/ Don’t know for how long,” Nash demonstrates that victims lose faith in humanity in the aftermath of hate-motivated attacks. In a society where they are supposed to feel safe, these targeted victims no only lose confidence in themselves, but also in mankind. When she continues recalling back to the hate crime, Nash continues to use a mellow approach. This time, she nearly narrates her lyrics, “That faithful night may have changed your life/The [sic] came down on you/When you felt the force, but now you must look to the light/And find the strength to keep on/And fight the good fight.” In nearly reciting these song lyrics, she is almost telling a story. In telling rather than singing these lyrics, she is emphasizing how Mika’s life will not be the same but he must have the strength to stand up and fight against the prejudice.

Kate Nash uses a faster and more upbeat tempo when the lyrics directly address Mika. With this beat and the lyrics alongside of it, Nash is encouraging Mika and telling him she will constantly remind him that there are people that love and support him. In her lyrics, “Mika, I’ll never give up/I’ll bring you pizza every day/I’ll bake you cakes cause you can’t bake…/If it will help you smile again,” Nash shows her affections by telling him what she’ll do for him and even adds a small joke, putting humor in her reassurance towards her friend. She continues to remind Mika about all the things she loves about him in order for him to gain his confidence, “Mika, you are so cute/ Even tho you can be pretty gross/ Yeah I really love you somehow/ You are so sweet/ Even when you’re acting crazy.” She ends the song in powerful message, “You’ll get to the top, fulfill you goals/Be…screw the rest [sic]/ We’ll fight the prejudice,/This bull-sh*t I contest.” These lines have a dual effect, giving strength to the victims and speaking out against hate crimes. With strong language, she demonstrates her strong opposition to prejudice and determination to fight for change.

Hate crime continues to be a prevalent problem in today’s society. It is not something that can be changed overnight. Effort and time must be invested in order for change to occur. Even though people have different opinions about these changes within the judicial system, people continue to express their concerns about the issue of hate crimes. From personal experience, Kate Nash expresses her message about hate crimes through the use of music and lyrics. She also describes the reasoning behind her song “Pink Limo Ride” in a blog post. In that post, she expresses her emotions of anger, frustration, and disappoint to her audience through the use of her personal blog and music. She uses these media forms to tell a personal story about a hate crime and advocate for people to stand up against prejudice and intolerance.

Works Cited

Myignorantyouth [Kate Nash]. “ “Pink Limo Ride” – Wake the Fuck Up – Kate Nash.” Tumblr. Tumblr, 18 Jul. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2013

Nash, Kate. “Pink Limo Ride.” 2013. Web. 1 Nov. 2013

Pink Limo Ride. Perf. Kate Nash. YouTube. YouTube, 18 Jul. 2013. Web. 1 Nov. 2013