Hate Crimes: Criminal Law & Identity Politics

By James B. Jacobs; Kimberly Potter | Go to book overview

9
Identity Politics and Hate Crimes

If any problem unites gay people with non- gay people, it is crime. If any issue does not call for special interest pleading, this is it. Minority advocates, including gay ones, have blundered insensitively by trying to carve out hate crime statutes and other special interest crime laws instead of focusing on tougher measures against violence of all kinds. In trying to sensitize people to crimes aimed specifically at minorities, they are inadvertently desensitizing them to the vastly greater threat of crimes against everyone.

Jonathan Rauch, gay journalist and scholar

IT HARDLY NEEDS SAYING that we share with the proponents of hate crime laws the goal of a tolerant society, in which people are judged by "the content of their character," not by their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. 1 We differ over the means for achieving that goal. The proponents believe that the message-sending potential and the deterrent power of criminal law will deter or persuade criminals and would- be criminals to desist from hate crimes and perhaps to hold fewer and less virulent prejudices. We find this implausible. The conduct which hate crime laws aim at is already criminal. Given that criminals ignore existing criminal laws and punishment threats, we doubt that the additional threat promised by hate crime laws adds much, if any, marginal deterrence; this is especially true for the most serious offenses. In any event, a highly bigoted offender can probably avoid the hate crime tariff by committing his crime silently. It is possible that the mere promulgation

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