Hate Crime Thought Experiment

Let’s suppose an assailant called his victim the N-word before violently attacking him.

Arrange the following in order of severity of the crime:

A) assailant is white, victim is black
B) assailant is black, victim is black
C) assailant is black, victim is white
D) assailant is white, victim is white

Under hate crime laws, wouldn’t these likely be treated as four distinctly different crimes? What makes the difference? Name calling.

I’m not in the mood to look up rap videos using the N-word as artistic expression. I’m personally offended by the word. I’ve been called it, more in the sense of affectionate greeting of a brother than a derogatory or racist term, but I protested, and my coworker stopped. I’ve sat through long traffic lights next to cars blasting the word repeatedly. It’s a word that has made its way into popular culture. But. It’s a word. I don’t think anyone should use it, but as long as someone does, then everyone should be able to. Equally.

And that’s one problem I see with making additional* laws based on someone’s mental state to enhance a penalty. The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, is supposed to guarantee us, well, equal due process. You can’t claim that you’re a victim of social injustice, and ask for special privileges at the same time. You’re either in or out with this equality thing.

*Mens rea already addresses mental state in both criminal and tort law. What does hate crime legislation add to the concept?


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