What we have established is not justice. We have established laws, law enforcement, legal proceedings, punishments, and all the trappings of a system of justice. At a glance, the credulous simpleton may call that system justice, and on a windy night, he may see a white sheet on a clothesline, and call it a ghost; in the second instance, he is perhaps less the fool. A mysterious white figure in the night is not a ghost, and a justice system is not justice, and it may be that, over the course of history, humans have known true justice only as often as they have known true ghosts.
The Senate recently passed legislation expanding the definition of hate crimes, and also expanding federal jurisdiction over the enforcement of hate crime legislation, which reminded me of a justice system injustice: hate crime legislation.
One hope of such legislation is to deter hate crimes by handing down harsher sentences. The proponents of hate crime legislation also claim that it promotes justice. In Congress, as usual, absurdity triumphs.
Firstly, the term “hate crime” is problematic (can we please have some “love crime” legislation?). Is a crime committed out of greed any less offensive, any less dangerous, or any less deserving of punishment than one committed out of hate? What about a jealous crime? Is the jealous felon more noble than the hateful one? Blind justice does not see a greedy murderer, a jealous murderer, and a hateful murderer; she senses that all three act with malicious intent, and if their crimes are otherwise identical, their emotions are inconsequential. Of all killers, she absolves only the fearful self-defender, who is no criminal at all, and who may serve as an example to further test the justice of hate crime legislation.
If a human kills another in indisputable self-defense, that human is guilty of no crime; no one inquires into the dead’s race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. It is not unthinkable that, had the assailant been of another gender, the person acting in self-defense would have employed non-lethal measures. This possibility, however, does not affect justice; justice is blind to group distinctions. The person acting in self-defense always acts justly. In like manner, the person committing a crime always acts unjustly; still, justice is blind to group distinctions.
“Hate crimes” are designed to protect victims who may be targeted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. However, judges only protect certain groups. Absurdly, it is ruled that many majorities and even some minorities cannot legally be the objects of hatred. A white, heterosexual, Christian, American male is incapable of being the victim of a hate crime, no matter how vehemently his attacker hates white, straight, Christian, American men. If a criminal targets obscenely wealthy people only because they are obscenely wealthy, and the criminal admits to hating such people, he cannot be charged with a hate crime. Hate crime legislation requires that individuals belonging to certain groups are given more legal protection than others. This is unequal treatment under the law; it is, by definition, injustice.
Most harmfully, hate crime legislation actually encourages and perpetuates group bias, inequality, and injustice. An unbiased perspective cannot prevail among a people whose government legally differentiates between individuals on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, income, economic status, political ideology, or any other such distinction; and that is exactly what hate crime legislation does. Ironically, it is the self-proclaimed champions of the unbiased perspective that–perhaps unwittingly–prevent it from taking root.