Friday, July 08, 2011

When Is A Hate Crime NOT A Hate Crime?

One of the things I get tired of hearing is that full of caca right wing talking point that 'all crimes are hate crimes', or hearing from non persons of color doubts about the effectiveness of hate crimes laws.

That is until one happens to somebody they know, is part of their ethnic group, or is part of their marginalized group a la Chrissy Lee Polis or Matthew Shepard.

Thanks to Mercedes and a post about this case at her blog, I'm following what is happening in Halifax, NS with Elle Noir.    Last month two people posing as police officers knocked on her door.  She began to open it in response to their claim they were officers, but when she noted that one of the two men was wearing a red bandanna and carrying a gun attempted to slam it shut with her roommate's help.   The perps fired multiple shots through the door with one of them striking her in the right arm before they ran off.

Elle believes it was a hate crime.    The Halifax po-po's don't

"They were yelling, 'Tranny faggot, open the door, let us in, let us in,' which leads me to believe they knew who I was. I'm in a second-floor apartment. You know, you have to have a security key to get into the building.   "Obviously it was 100 per cent hatred."

Like Mercedes and Elle, I'm not buying what the Halifax po-po's are selling either since many police officers tend to be conservafools who believe the right wing hype for starters.  I am well aware of the fact that Officer Friendly isn't exactly friendly at times to people of color, and that includes transpeople of color as well.  

We transpeople already have less than cordial relations with them as Amnesty International has documented due to the anti-trans attitudes exacerbated by the hypermacho culture embedded in many police departments.

But back to discussing hate crimes.  

Hate crimes are ones that also send a message to the targeted group irregardless of where they physically live.  The 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was an example of that.  The killing of Dr. James Tiller was designed to intimidate and dissuade any medical professional across the United States who was considering providing abortion services.

The James Byrd dragging death happened over 110 miles away from me in Jasper, TX on June 7, 1998, but the chilling effect of that brutal killing was felt and talked about not only in the African-American communities of Houston and Dallas, but by African-Americans across the USA

In conversations with my Canadian homegirl, she has told me the Byrd attack was discussed in the African descended community of Toronto and amongst other African descended Canadians.

Renee has also talked about how the December 6, 1989 Ecole Polytechnique mass slaying in Montreal affected and continues to affect her and other Canadian women and girls who grew up during that time. .

One of the excuses I hear about opposition to hate crimes laws is that it privileges some bodies over others. 

Um hello, our legal system already privileges some bodies over others. If you attempt to kill the POTUS, the Prime Minister, a congressmember, an MP, a federal judge, any state or provincial politicians, or a police officer, you will get enhanced criminal penalties for attempting to do so.

Ask Jared Loughner about that.

I also agree that the Bill C-389 passage and the Conservatives using fear tactics to attempt to kill it sowed the seeds that probably led to this and sadly future attacks on Canadian transpeople.  Some of those will unfortunately succeed and add more names to the Remembering our Dead list.

Mercedes is correct in stating that someone shouting a transphobic slur at you is not a hate crime.  But if that transphobic slur is followed up by violent action such as a beatdown, weapons being fired at you, someone trying to hit you with a bat or bottle, attempts to stab you with a knife, or attempts to kill you, it most definitely is a hate crime.  

But the bottom line to me is as long as you have people hating others, or willing to in the name of hating other human beings kill those people they dislike in order to send a message to the group they hate, in order to defend the human rights of the marginalized group, hate crimes laws will be a necessary part of the civil rights toolbox.

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