Friday, February 22, 2008

Hate Crimes Laws-Needed and Necessary

One of the things that irritates me is when somebody on the GLBT side of the equation (usually white) starts making these BS arguments that hate crimes laws aren't needed, are a waste of time or they start echoing the 'all crimes are hate crimes' conservaargument.

Hate crimes are any crime that is committed with an intent, either intentionally or unintentionally to send an intimidating message to a minority group. Under hate crimes laws when these crimes occur, they are given enhanced criminal penalties.

I'll give you an example of one that my late Grandmother Tama told me about that happened back when she was a little girl growing up in then rural Fort Bend County.

There was a wealthy African-American who sponsored a countywide Juneteenth picnic. One year he got tired of being gouged and disrespected while purchasing supplies at the local general store in Rosenberg, TX for the event. He decided to drive up the road to Houston, spend the money with Black owned businesses and get the picnic supplies he needed there.

The white males who owned the general store were incensed when they found out and decided they would teach the uppity n----r a lesson. They rolled up on the packed picnic site along with a few friends guns drawn, found the picnic host, and in front of horrified onlookers he was severely beaten for his 'crime' of looking for courteous service and a better deal.

I noted that while my grandmother was telling me this story, despite the fact this happened when she was nine years old and she was now in her seventies, she was angrily crying.

That's one reason why hate crimes need more enhanced punishments. Hate crimes are not just simple murders or beatdowns administered to someone. They have an effect on people far beyond the local site where they are committed and as my grandmother demonstrated, in some cases they affect people beyond the time period that the crimes were originally committed as well.

The Emmitt Till lynching in August 1955 had repercussions far beyond the borders of Mississippi where it happened and in Chicago where Till was buried. It basically jump started the Civil Rights movement.

The September 15, 1963 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham that killed Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and injured 22 other parishioners was such a crime. It was designed to intimidate not only the citizens of that city but have an effect beyond the borders of Alabama.

When the June 7, 1998 James Byrd dragging death happened in Jasper, TX his murder reverberated not only in the nearby Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange Golden Triangle area, it had repercussions in Houston, Dallas and with every African-American in eastern Texas.

I pointed this out when I lobbied my home state senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson last year in support of the Matthew Shepard bill. When her aide tried to use that 'all crimes are hate crimes' and 'murder is murder' spin line, I calmly pointed out to her that if Sen. Hutchinson truly felt that way, why did her boss attend the James Byrd funeral?

I get peturbed when I hear the words 'Philadelphia, Mississippi' because of what happened to the civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner there in 1964. It's a major component among other reasons of why I can't stand Ronald Reagan's racist behind. (Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign there)

Why do you think African-Americans go off whenever we see a hangman's noose or a Klan hood? It's because too many times back in the day they killed people and committed crimes that were designed to intimidate our community. That is what the kids in Jena, LA saw when those nooses in school colors were hanging from that tree.

The transgender community knows all too well what African-Americans have experienced. When Gwen Araujo was brutally murdered five years ago, the crime affected transpeople (and still is) in the Bay Area. There have been murders of transgender people in which their bodies were not only stabbed multiple times far beyond the point needed to kill someone, but sexually mutilated as well. The gay community has gotten a taste of what we've experienced with Matthew Shepard's killing.

So when I hear somebody say that hate crimes legislation won't help, or you're penalizing people's thoughts, that's bull. There are just certain crimes, like the ones I just highlighted in this post, that cry out for a punishment that goes beyond the penalties laid out for it or a mere slap on the wrist.

Hate crimes laws are not a waste of time, they are needed and necessary.

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