Hate crime legislation discussed

The issue of hate crimes and how they affect communities around the United States was discussed on Wednesday, in conjunction with the 9th annual Young Women’s Christian Association Week Without Violence.

A panel was held in the Hinckley Institute of Politics to analyze the occurrence of hate crimes in the United States today, and question whether legislation against it would be effective.

The panel was moderated by Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, and included views and observations from U professor of sociology Theresa Martinez, Weber State professor Forest Crawford, attorney Steven Clark and Megan Risbon, a representative of the Associated Students of the University of Utah.

Risbon provided a description on the civic awareness promoted to young people, ages 25 and younger, by the ASUU Rock the Vote effort.

“Fifty percent of reported hate crime victims in Utah are under the age of 25.

Since that is the target age group for us, we just knew that we should step out our involvement in the issue, and we felt that we really have to reach out to our age group to get them more involved,” Risbon said.

The purpose of the ASUU Rock the Vote is to protect freedom of expression and empower young people to make a difference in the world. With these ideas in mind, a petition against hate crimes and violence became a major priority.

Clark, an openly gay man, recognizes the continuing problem of prejudice and bigotry in today’s society. Clark, from a legal standpoint, was asked to criticize the entire concept of hate crimes.

“It is clear to me; the law can and should try to stop violence in a society that values freedom of speech and freedom of thought even to the point of protecting hateful speech and hateful thought, I wonder whether the law can and should try to stop hate,” Clark said.

Clark says that hate crimes laws attempt to punish certain attitudes, and create a form of content discrimination toward First-Amendment traditions.

More often then not, black people are more likely to be targeted for hate crimes than white people, which then would further embed the very kind of problems that the law would be trying to get rid of.

“But I commend leaders of the Legislature for their careful crafting of the bill, that I understand, is taking place in the Legislature targeting hate crimes. I think it does have constitutional muster, and the legal objections will probably not be seen,” he said.

Crawford, an advocate and supporter of the hate crime legislation, has experienced first-hand the results of hate crimes and violence.

His concerns aim at not only the individual that is being targeted, but the community as well.

“The law has always been in place to at least deter, in some manner, that particular act of hate,” he said.

Crawford argued that we were mainly dealing with issues of violence among each other. “Violence is a part of our history…a part of our inherent behavior, and the human species. A part of who we are is the violence that we visited upon each other.”

With the thought of violence as a natural human action, Crawford says that, given our relative imperfection, we should come up with different tools and ways of trying help govern of how we interact as human beings.

Being an active observer of what hate crimes can do to a community, Martinez says that, “minorities are being singled out” and that when an individual experiences a hate crime, it is usually targeted towards the community of that individual, and those associated with it.

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