“Hate crimes” are abhorrent and contemptible. Few argue otherwise. However, many take issue with hate crime legislation not because they view such crimes as acceptable, but because such legislation imposes hierarchy of victimhood.
Beat a white man mercilessly with a pipe for his wallet and you’re a criminal. Beat a black man mercilessly with a pipe because he’s black and you’re committing a hate crime and the punishment will be more severe. But to both victims, the motive matters not; they both needlessly suffer.
A former student of the University of Mississippi- Ol’ Miss- was sentenced to prison on Thursday for his role in hanging a noose on a statue of James Meredith on campus.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills sentenced Graeme Phillip Harris to six months in prison and 12 months of supervised released after. He will be serving his sentence beginning on January 4th, 2016. He had been threatened with a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Harris had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees in exchange for prosecutors dropping a felony charge.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta voiced her support in a statement, saying,
“No one should have to endure threats or intimidation because of their race or the color of their skin.”
Harris was part of a group that placed a noose over the neck of a statue of James Meredith- the school’s first black student.
To be absolutely clear: this is not okay. Civil society demands that we use our words and ideas to voice our opinions and hanging a noose on a statue is entirely inappropriate.
However disgusting this vandalism is, society must be careful to not apply our standards of justice inequitably.
For example: our national history is constantly being disgraced by vandals who dishonor cherished monuments in furtherance of a political agenda and such vandalism is routinely shrugged-off.
Throughout much of the late 19th and early 20th century, groups and family members of former Confederate soldiers erected statues to the fallen and those who served. In recent months amidst racial tensions, these statues have been defaced with political slogans and mantras of black supremacy and not only have many of these crimes gone unsolved, but there has been virtually zero conversations about the application of hate crime laws to these cases.
In Rockville, Maryland, a Confederate statue was spray-painted with “Black Lives Matter.’
And, if we’re going to compare apples to apples, a Confederate statue on the campus of the University of North Carolina was defaced with this hateful message that has inspired racial violence and talks of white genocide and violence against police.
Though one cannot and should not attempt to deny America’s history with racism and racial intimidation, or downplay the severity of Harris’ intended message, it’s clear that there is an inherent inequality involved with how America views these crimes.
“Black Lives Matter” may sound innocuous and like a hopeful message. However, the phrase has been appropriated by black radicals who have advocated racial violence and intimidation and one adherent to this message recently went on a shooting rampage with the aim of killing whites.
If we are to penalize those who seek to spread fear and intimidation, we must apply this standard equally.