Friday, October 12, 2007

Hate Crime and Subcultures - the debate

As mentioned before on the Epetition the idea of "Hate Crime" legislation being applied to subcultures arose quite soon after Sophie's death and aroused strong opinions for and against. See the debate at this site: Community - Change the UK Law - Goth Hate Crime - lets try anyway. The points raised against the idea of hate crime legislation for subcultures which are noted below come from there. [Note they are talking about an earlier petition not the UK specific one].

Many points are very good and entirely valid. I think it is very interesting to note the reluctance of many to immeadiately endorse the idea, which you might think from an emotional and purely tribalistic perspective might seem very attractive given the strong feelings Sophie's death aroused. Does this mean goths think too much as some people have suggested? Or that goths actually are as individualistic as they often claim to be? Is dealing with goths like trying to herd cats as I myself have observed?

Whatever you conclude this is why I think it is important to emphasise as well education and awareness - the ideas pursued by the SOPHIE campaign, rather than necessarily wage a battle over whether this a hate crime or not? Trying to reduce negative coverage of subcultures in the media is a key element in this I think.

Some of the key points and ideas mentioned in the debate against the idea of redefining Hate Crime are:

A) subcultures choose to be different unlike gay or racial minorities:

IsolatedReptile: What I said was, it's a fashion thing. Fashion is a choice. If you feel threatened, don't dress that way. It's not a hate crime because you wear black. It's just a crime. It's a hate crime if you are black. You can't help that.

Beneath the Shadows: As far as I'm concerned, the only things that should be considered hate crimes are crimes against people who were born certain ways, ie because of sexual orientation or ethnicity. Those people cannot help what they are, so any crimes against them just because they what they are are hate crimes. But just about everything else is a choice.

Don't get me wrong, I still think that it's tragic that someone will get beaten up for how they vote, or what god they worship, or how they dress. But those are all choices.

Captain Stern: What people are proposing here is we be put on the same level as jewish people who have their synagogues burned and covered in swastikas by skinheads, that we get equal protection like blacks who are hung for dating white women , like other minorities who really have had, and still have atrocities forced upon them in todays society.

Althought I'm sure the founders of the movement have nothing but good intentions, goths have by no means suffered as much as the groups above, or any other minoroties who have been targetted in such a manner.

If we try to compare our plight, which so far is limited to a single incident where a group of random yobs beat up a couple goths in the middle of the night, to these other groups, we will look very petty and small.
B) Where do you draw the line? If Hate laws are extended to some subcultures where does it stop?
CptSternn: Every person beaten is a hate crime. If the kids were wearing glasses and a pocket protector, would we include geeks as a hate crime? If they were wearing tie-dyes would we add in hippies? If they were wearing ren-faire outfits, would we protect people in medieval garb as a hate crime?

What if they wore chicken suits and had gotten beaten up? We going to make Disneyland a protected sanctuary for people in cartoon suits?

Every crime is a hate crime. People get beaten for many reasons. Beating someone because of something they cannot change deserves to be a crime enforced but adding every little fashion change to hate crime laws doesn't help us.

C) You might undermine the importance of existing legislation:

CptSternn: It lessens the effect of real hate crime legislation. If everyone goes asking to be included in 'hate crime' laws, in the end they will just raise the penalties for all beatings because everyone wants to be listed as their own group.... I think even trying to get this put into legislation is a bad idea. It makes goths look petty, and ignorant. It also makes real hate crimes look less important, considering we appear to want protection like minorities or foreign nationals, and we are normal people, average citizens, mostly from affluent areas, who merely choose to wear an outfit.

D) Hate crime is an incoherent and unjust idea anyway. All crimes should be punished equally. This is a longstanding argument against hate crime legislation and comes down to the question of why should crimes against a black/gay/disabled person be treated differently to that of a white person:
Drake Dun: I think we should just extend hate crimes to cover all types of crime. So then it would be "hate murder", "hate aggravated assault", "hate grand larceny", "hate intentional misrepresentation with intent to defraud in connection with interstate commerce" and so forth. So then, see, they would all have "hate" in front of them, so it would be redundant, and we could drop it, and set all the sentences back to where they were to begin with.

Then we could erase all record of the entire process, and quietly pretend that we never went through this ludicrous phase of thinking that beating someone up because you don't like their clothes is somehow worse than beating them up for their wallet.
E) New laws won't change anything it is a wider social problem:

Stephanie: I'm not trying to make light of these situations but you have to be realistic, there are 'twats' out there that commit these crimes regardless of who/what the person is, usually they are bought up with very little discipline/or too much, violence in the home, violence on tv, drug/alcohol problems within the home, the list goes on and on.

'Thugs' know that they will generally get a slap on the wrist whenever a crime is committed and minors know this also, children aren't as innocent as society makes out!!

I understand that your heart is in the right place with wanting to get 'hate' crimes recognised but it would be more constructive to try and get sentences increased, mental/drug/alcohol/social problems looked at as this is where these crimes usually start. We need more information distributed within schools etc.

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