Should Hate Crimes Be Punished?
A bigot who burns a house because Jewish people live there should be punished more than an man who burns a house because his ex-wife’s family lives there.
This is a Q1 violation if you don’t think that an individual’s thoughts or motivations should be legally punishable. It may also be a violation if you only consider attacks on certain groups to be hate crimes (for example, if you feel that attacks on black people or women are sometimes hate crimes, but that attacks on white men never are).
This may be a Q2 violation if your method of determining what is a hate crime is not rigorous. For example, if you think that anything violent done by a white person to someone who is not white could be a hate crime, then you allow others to suspect that anything you do to someone that does not share your race may be a hate crime.
Depending on how you came to your conclusions about hate crimes, this may also be a Q2 violation if you don’t think that other types of motivation are sufficient reason for extra punishment. For example, should there be an extra penalty if someone who hates lawyers kills a lawyer?
This statement has many of the same philosophical problems that the statement about bigotry had. Before you can define a hate crime, you have to define what groups will be protected (in a legal sense).
One alternative is to consider any crime motivated by the race (or other attribute) of the victim to be a hate crime, but in that case you are allowing the criminal’s personal opinion of groups to define what a hate crime is, and that may be problematic.
Since a person’s thoughts cannot be examined in a court of law, you must also decide what would be sufficient evidence to prove that someone was motivated to criminal action by bigoted thoughts. By Q2, you must accept that such evidence could be used to draw conclusions about you at some point. For example, if a white police officer shoots a black man, and it is found that the police officer enjoys listening to recordings of old Amos and Andy radio shows, is that sufficient reason to accuse the officer of racial motivation in the shooting? What if on the previous day the officer had used a racial slur when referring to a group of black gang members? Would that be sufficient?
You must decide whether hate in and of itself is a crime, or if it only rises to the level of a criminal act when coupled with additional criminal behavior. Should it be illegal, for example, to think that all Germans are bad drivers? Or should this only be illegal if bigotry against German drivers leads to you slash tires in the parking lot of a German church? If bigotry is not a crime in and of itself, why does it become a crime when it motivates immoral behavior? Should any other thoughts or opinions should have legal ramifications.
In which of these cases do you think racial motivation should have moral or legal consequences?
- A thug steals a white person’s car because he assumes white people have plenty of money.
- A white man, acting cool, says, "What’s up, nigger?" to a black man.
- A black man punches a white man in the face for saying, "What’s up, nigger?"
- After a theft is discovered, a women suggests to the police that her domestic employees — all of whom are Hispanic — should be questioned first.
- The family of a Japanese-American boy locks him in his room to stop him from eloping with a Korean-American girl.
- A man donates his time to a charity that helps Hispanic immigrants instead of a charity that helps Asian immigrants, because he thinks Asians are smarter and can help themselves.
- A white man, motivated in part by a racial stereotype, exclusively dates Asian women (or a white woman exclusively dates black men for a similar reason).
- A store manager promotes a Hispanic clerk because he promoted a white clerk the last time.
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.