When is a hate crime not a hate crime? When the skin color of the villain(s) and victim(s) doesn’t fit the paradigm that prompted the creation of hate crime laws in the first place.
Our friend Stephanie Farr of philly.com is back with the latest development in what she initially reported as “a horrific assault in Center City” in which “three teenagers who were spouting racial slurs pulled a man out of a cab to beat him.”
This time reporter Farr buries the lede only until the second paragraph, which follows:
The teens, who are black, were not charged with hate crimes because there was no evidence that the assault had been motivated by the race of the victims, who are white, said Tasha Jamerson, D.A. spokeswoman. Just shouting racial epithets during the commission of a crime doesn’t rise to the level of ethnic intimidation, she said.
Jamerson is quoted as saying, “They just didn’t have that in this case. If they had somebody who, two blocks before, heard them say, ‘We’re going to beat somebody up because they’re white, brown or purple,’ it might be different.”
But the first hate-crime legislation in the “modern era,” Section 249 of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, contains no such stipulation. In fact, the language of the law is pretty broad, covering “offenses involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin” and specifying punishment for
[w]hoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person.
It would appear that the crime—in which the perpetrators hurled “racially derogatory names” at the cabbie and passenger and “punched … in the face, kicked … and threw a liquid” on the driver—meet the criteria for a hate enhancement as spelled out in the law.