As heinous as this crime was, I go back and forth with how I feel about the hate crime label, which is reserved for crimes motivated by prejudice against someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability.
I understand the theory behind it, and dream about the day when we will live in a world where we respected each other, but labeling a violent act a hate crime doesn’t serve as a deterrent, and in many cases, only seems to make matters worse. The very nature of crime, especially those that harm another human being, is rooted in hate, and by labeling a certain crimes hate crimes, it makes them seem worse than any other crime. Some may think they are, but try explaining that to the parent who lost a daughter to criminal actions of a rapist or serial killer (not considered a hate crime), or to the families who lost loved ones in the horrific Colorado theater killings (also not considered a hate crime).
Most progressive countries around the world recognize hate crimes and have separate penalties for those who commit them. In the United States, the first hate crime laws were passed after the Civil War to combat the racially motivated crimes being committed by the Ku Klux Klan; this move was understandable at the time considering where we were and where we were coming from. We still have problems today, but thankfully we’ve come a long way from the Civil War era.
Labeling a criminal act a hate crime invokes severe reactions in many people, and almost forces society to choose sides, which ultimately causes more violence and anger. Perhaps it would serve us better to get rid of all labels that make our differences more prominent and drive us further apart. After all, we are all equal human beings and crimes against every one of us is just as hateful as the next.
In a perfect society, our differences would be celebrated and enjoyed. Unfortunately, in our reality some people live under the impression they are better than others and have the right to do unspeakable things to their fellow human beings because of it. I’m not singling out any specific group because it’s true of many, including all criminals who commit horrific acts not labeled as hate crimes.
Every crime must be punished to the fullest extent of the law to ensure the safety of our society. Sadly, labeling an act as a hate crime, something that was originally meant to help society, seems to bring on more problems than we can handle.