Talk Left opposes hate crimes legislation because he sees it as an ineffective and unnecessary extension of federal power. Debasish Mishra, a board member of South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT), responded with a very thoughtful commentary:
Your premise is that a hate crime is no different from a regular crime against an individual. The problem is that a hate crime is NOT an attack on an individual, but on a class of individuals. Its purpose is to terrorize that class of individuals on the basis of their race, religion, national origin, etc. In fact, unlike regular crimes, hate crimes have been shown to cause a chilling effect on the targeted communities.
As a South Asian he is particularly sensitive to this topic:
Perhaps the best example of this was in the immediate aftermath of September 11th when hate crimes exploded against individuals percieved to be Muslim. There were 645 press accounts of hate crimes against Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans in the seven days following 9/11. As a direct result, many Muslims feared leaving their homes and many mosques around the country had to receive round-the-clock police protection.
He also argues that concerns about creating unnecessary new laws are moot, since “41 states and the federal government have enacted hate crimes legislation.” I’m sure that by now the discussion has expanded beyond the two comments that were there when I read the post … go read.
UPDATE: As I suspected, the discussion has already gotten more interesting. David Neiwert has this to say:
Are hate crimes truly different from their parallel crimes? Quantifiably and qualitatively, the answer is yes.
The first and most clear aspect of this difference lies in the breadth of the crimes’ effects. Hate crimes attack not only the immediate victim, but the target community — Jews, blacks, gays — to which the victim belongs. Their purpose today, just as it was in the lynching era, is to terrorize and politically oppress the target community. Hate-crime laws resemble anti-terrorism laws in this respect as well — adding, in effect, punishment because more than just the immediate victim is targeted and affected, and thus greater harm is inflicted. But this is only one aspect of the greater harm inflicted by hate crimes than their parallel crimes. There are several more, and they are substantial….
UPDATE: Dave has even more to say over on his blog.