There’s a lot of talk about hate crimes in Seattle these days. At issue is some of the perpetrators of violence at the city’s Mardi Gras festivities last month, of which roughly 75% of the suspects are black, with the worst offenders attacking white people only. There is outrage that these crimes may not be considered hate crimes, which carry a stiffer penalty than “ordinary” crimes, because in this case it’s black-on-white violence instead of the other way around.
I agree that there is a double-standard when it comes to the issue–there’s a perception that white people can’t accuse black people of racism at all–but the answer isn’t to charge these hoodlums with a hate crime. The solution is to eliminate the issue of hate crime altogether. Hitting me because I’m white shouldn’t carry any stiffer penalty than just hitting me. And more importantly, it eases race relations. Making a “hate crime” as a separate distinction only serve to divide black and white people even further. Let’s hope that the Seattle Mardi Gras case represents a step in that direction.