Apparently there’s a hate crime epidemic sweeping NYC this fall. Perhaps the xenophobic and classless reaction to the villainous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad loosened up everybody’s virtriolic sphincter up there at Columbia. But have no fear, the New York State Assembly is on the case.
If Assemblyman Joseph Lentol has his way, hanging a noose in public will be another offense under New York’s Hate Crimes Act. According to Lentol, “Displaying a noose can have very real emotional effect on people. The law should recognize that this is, without question, a hate crime and protect people from it.”
Do we really need the law to protect people from “very real” emotional effects? Sticks, stones and being dropped from a 15-foot tree branch with a rope tied around my neck—these are the insults that I wish legal protection from. The law is a poor protector against name-calling and historic symbolism. Legislating against specific forms of hateful expression does nothing to address the underlying causes of hate, and at best just encourages fear-mongers to come up with ever more creative ways to say “boo.”
Take a look at the actual hate crime laws already on the books in New York. Every single offense specified—crimes like: rape, assault, kidnapping and general harassment—is already against the law. The hate crimes act simply makes it much worse if you commit those crimes because of hate.
Minority groups face “very real” social and economic discrimination—far more damaging than hurt feelings. If the Assembly wants to help, shouldn’t they address the idiotic prohibition on gay marriage, the incarceration of a generation of African-American men for recreational marijuana use or, at the very least, introduce the NYPD to the concept of restraint?
Lynchings still happen, they just no longer involve a noose. Representatives should address real acts of discrimination, not symbols and speech.