posted Jun 8, 2012, 8:33 AM by firstname.lastname@example.org
updated Jun 8, 2012, 4:00 PM by Natural Newark
In the past few months, there have been several noteworthy bias crime cases in the news. In each case, the sexuality or gender identity of the victim played a prominent role in the motives for the crime and outcomes of the cases. On March 16th Dharun Ravi was found guilty of bias intimidation, which led to the 2010 suicide of gay Rutgers Student, Tyler Clementi. Ravi is currently serving a 30 day jail sentence that many regard as woefully insufficient in light of the impact that his actions apparently had on Clementi’s decision to end his life, even though the prosecutors insisted Clementi's suicide had nothing to do with their case. A couple of weeks ago, Alrashim Chambers was found not guilty of the September 12, 2010 murder of Victoria Carmen White, a 28-year-old transgendered woman. My reading of the coverage and comments on nj.com suggested that many observers, including the jurors felt that White’s failure to disclose her entire gender history somehow constituted a mitigating circumstance in the outcome of the violent night that ended in her death. And today in the news, Alexis Ocasio, 28, wants his two attackers brought up on bias crime charges for punching and slamming his face during an altercation over leaving a party. Warrants have been issued for the arrests on the alleged attackers.
Reflecting on these three very different cases, I have come to seriously question the moral logic of bias crime legislation. Ravi’s decision to violate the privacy of Clementi isn’t disgusting because Clementi happened to be gay, it’s just disgusting. And likewise in the case of Victoria C. White. There is no way to understand the murder of a woman in the circumstances in which she was murdered, as anything other that hate. Violating someone’s body or rights is wrong no matter who does it or why. Bias crime statutes create unhelpful categories of crimes that allow some acts of criminal violence to count differently. Every crime that endeavors to rob someone of his or her dignity, life, peace of mind, and property is bias crime.