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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Columns

Racist roommate shows absurdity of hate crime laws


Reported hate crimes at UH spiked to seven in 2016 from two in 2015. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

On Nov. 1, the Hartford Courant reported on a hate crime committed by Briana Rae Brochu against her black roommate Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe. Though Brochu admitted to obscene acts such as smearing her used tampon on Rowe’s backpack and sticking her toothbrush “where the sun don’t shine,” Brochu was charged with only breach of peace and personal misconduct.

This is an example of white privilege protecting the guilty in the so-called fair justice system. Even though hate crimes are typically difficult to prove, when the perpetrator admits to the crime and for doing it “out of spite,” there is more than enough evidence.

In the case of penalties, breach of peace counts as a misdemeanor warranting only some jail time but can easily be alternated with community service, especially if the person has a clean record.

Some hate crimes are considered felonies, which lands the perpetrator in federal prison for at least one year.

Hate crimes are not only perpetrated by civilians, they are also committed by the people that are supposed to stop people from doing the crime.

When it comes to people of color, we have seen that police face no criminal convictions for killing people of color 99 percent of the time, even when they’re wrongfully killed, according to a 2015 study.

Hate crime laws have only been on the books for about 25 years. The first federal law requiring law enforcement to keep track of crimes motivated by hatred passed the House in 1989, and President George H.W. Bush signed it into law a year later.

These laws were a direct response to historic and modern violence against marginalized bodies. From postbellum lynchings and assaults on the LGBT community to rape culture, we can see that prejudice-fueled attacks are not out of the norm or few and far between.

The only drawback to hate crimes legislation is that they are extremely difficult to prove. It’s challenging to prove a perpetrator’s justification, and hateful speech even directly before the crime does not affect the ruling.

Another complication: Hating others is so irrational that it is difficult to prove that violence or vandalism are motivated by such specific malice. It’s ridiculous that someone could harbor hate toward a group of people for something beyond their control.

Homophobia, racism and xenophobia aren’t based in facts. It is impossible to prove than Mexican immigrants ruined the U.S. economy or that Muslims are orchestrating all terror attacks.

But when the criminal admits to committing a crime –“out of spite” or otherwise – we need to take them at their word. If not, we are dismissing protection for the people who need it most in this country.

Opinion editor Dana C. Jones is a print journalism junior. He can be reached at [email protected]

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