Robles: Understanding hate crime

Due to the recent chill of our political climate, there have been multiple incidents that have been astounding to discover. These incidents, which were quickly deemed as hate crimes, were performed by different members of different political parties.

Although many of the actions performed may be full of hate and discrimination, not all could be considered hate crimes, and so a problem emerges. The lack of factual support in any given argument threatens to unravel the entire statement; therefore, the most important element of preparation is research.

It is important to be aware of our rights and the rights of others. However, it is more important to understand the accusations we place upon one another to avoid creating fear by spreading false truths. We must be properly educated in what constitutes a hate crime before we claim or argue any crimes to fall underneath the definition. How we orient ourselves in public places requires respect and informed authority. We must, therefore, do the necessary research.

Federal Hate Crime Legislation currently protects those targeted for their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity or color. The laws derived from it vary state by state. In Oregon, we have what is known as the Intimidation Law. This law refers to a crime that was specifically committed by a person, or persons, who threatened to cause physical injury or caused physical injury to someone because of their race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin or color or their perception of such. There are two degrees to this crime: the first degree, which is considered a Class C felony, and the second degree, which is considered a Class A misdemeanor.  

Becoming aware of these details allows us to avoid widespread argument, prejudice and general negativity. The recent occasions of such debated crimes have brought about fear and animosity into the nation, further dividing our already split mindsets. Much of this talk was unsupported and only heightened the amount of tension between social groups.

A recent offense of this common mistake is the argument concerning the Chicago Four. Their story quickly spread as their crime was livestreamed on Facebook by one of the women involved. The victim (a young white male) was known to be mentally disabled, and the Chicago Four were heard shouting obscenities concerning whites and Donald Trump during the video. This was all level ground for the hate crime charge.

It appeared that there was much controversy on the subject. Many argued against the hate crime charge, claiming the event to have been performed by “misguided young people,” which somehow excused their actions. These statements caused uproar immediately, sending people to point fingers at double standards between races and call for justice for the young, white boy who somehow came to represent an entire group of people.

The issue quickly faded from its rightful purpose of defending a victim to the need to bring justice to the white and disabled communities. Bringing race into the conversation was a lot like throwing gasoline in the fire.The amount of drama that this debate brought up only damaged our ability to not only think with an open mind, but have the humility to address inequality in a straightforward manner and the effects that it has brought to our nation.

It was a wonder the boy was not forgotten in everyone else’s desire to be “right”, when clearly the answer lay among the state of Illinois’ laws against hate crimes. A fear of impending violence has generated by the amount of attention and disagreement that has erupted from this groundless talk. Even our beliefs of the functions in our society have been placed in question, which could have been avoided had there been sound evidence to original claims.

If we hope to mend the disparity that has been set upon this country, if we hope to bring equality into our foundational institutions, we must be willing to accept truth and fact over opinion. We must be able to keep our judgment of others unclouded by prejudice and hate. That means that we must accept that there tends to be a singularly correct answer as to what constitutes a hate crime, and that some matters cannot be settled by the opinions of the community.

Hostile debate comes from those who do not take the time to research definitions but rather haughtily assume they are correct. By making the effort and the decision to educate one’s self, one is applying objectivity and gaining informational authority while simultaneously avoiding the extra drama of double standards between race and other social communities.

It is recognizably difficult to approach such horrific matters objectively, as it is not easy to avoid implicit bias. But it is possible, and we, as a society, owe it to each other to fight for equal justice, as it is so deserved.

Update: This article has been edited for clarity.

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Malyssa Robles

Malyssa Robles