is followed by a spate of other episodes with a variety of motives: some are retaliatory, some copycat, some simply everyday discord drawn under the hot spotlight of public attention. 76
The proponents of bias crime laws believe that their symbolic impact will be to teach Americans that prejudice is wrong and, in the long run, lead to less prejudice and less prejudice-motivated crime. We have argued in this chapter that this belief may be misguided. Breaking down generic criminal law into new crimes and punishment hierarchies depending on the prejudices of offenders and the demographic identities of victims may exacerbate rather than ameliorate social schisms and conflicts.
Crime ought to be a social problem that brings together and unites all Americans. All law-abiding citizens oppose criminality and sympathize with crime victims. By condemning and punishing criminals, Americans ought to be affirming the values and norms that they share. However, bias crime laws and their enforcement redefine crime as one more arena for intergroup conflict. The hate crime laws and their enforcement have the potential to undermine social solidarity by redefining crime as a subcategory of the intergroup struggles between races, ethnic groups, religious groups, genders, and people of different sexual orientations.
With the emergence of hate crime law, jurisprudence, and politics, we are no longer dealing with crime and garden variety criminals, but with racists and sexists and a society irrevocably divided among victims' groups. The politics involved in passing hate crime laws reinforces identity politics; so too does the collection and reporting of hate crime statistics, which are invariably cited to support the proposition that each group's victimization at the hands of other groups is worsening. Finally, the process of labeling intergroup crimes as bias-motivated or not generates constant, low-level, intergroup strife.