Racism is a dubious thing. Just being human predisposes all of us to one of the scourges of society. Racism is not new, either, existing for thousands and thousands of years. Despite that, the current social stigma in the modern times’ thrusts upon all, a war of culture and tolerance that no one has the right answer for.
Our scene opens up in Chicago, four African-American teen activists turn criminals and an unfortunate mentally disabled white male. However, it is safe to say that you all know the story of his Facebook broadcasted torture and that all four assailants are being charged for aggravated assault and hate crimes, among others. Nevermore, the fact that we are brought to a situation, in this case, lends to the debate on whether or not our country is engulfed in social strife, relating to racial inequity.
What blew the horn for conservatives and those who identify right of center and lead to many celebrating the Chicago Police Department’s choice to push hate crime charges was the fact that President-elect Donald Trump’s name was mentioned. More specifically, a few of the assailants in the video of the live broadcast of the incident forced the victim to say things like, “Fuck Donald Trump,” while they uttered “Fuck White People.”
In a press conference shortly after the incident, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department, Commander Kevin Duffin, recounted that the event as a situation that was shrouded in not only racism but also prejudice against the victim’s mental capability. This happened throughout the video and such instances escalated to reprehensible points.
“That’s when racial slurs and [references] to his mental capacity starts coming out,” Duffin said via coverage from ABC News. “That’s primarily one of the reasons why they were charged with the hate crime.”
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called the incident “sickening.”
“It makes you wonder what would make individuals treat someone like that,” Johnson opined.
Provided with this context, the debate surrounding racial tensions and the social microcosms that envelope incidents like these must be navigated.
Facing the Music
Everyone, since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, is entitled to equitable treatment under the law. Something that, in our modern day, has been reinforced to ensure ardent strides in race relations.
However, we cannot forget some important statistics. 1 in 3 African-American men can expect to spend some time in prison, during their lifetime, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics. Roughly, 1 in every 15 African American men are currently incarcerated while over 60 percent of the current American prison population are people of color.
You may be asking about the relevance of this? The relevance of these facts are to help address the elephant in the room: all four assailants in the Chicago hate-crime incident are black. That, and being in the current state of society we find ourselves in, many of these issues pose questions.
The American prison population for years, has grown, due in part, to an overcriminalized society where small-time non-violent offenders are given lengthy sentences, depriving them of life, liberty, and property just for being stupid. The solution to address this problem is to reform criminal statutes and only pass damaging punishment on the crimes that threatens society’s stability. A few high schoolers rolling up a joint in a public park after dark isn’t really threatening, but, more or less, a stupid mistake.
However, where it gets tricky is when the argument that the criminal justice system is inherently racist is lodged into the debate. What classifies the Chicago incident as an issue of hate crime opens up a realm of abstract definitions that too often are not able to be upheld in court proceedings. Plus, this was a violent crime making matters murkier.
The murkiness drives home the fact that current renditions of hate crime laws across the country turn police departments into regulators of your thoughts, dictating whether or not “hatred” is permissible in court. Sometimes this may seem rather easy to do, but usually, it is not so clear why someone decided to harm another person.
Conservative pundit and a staff columnist at Mediate, John Ziegler, highlighted this very sentiment:
“…even when we are reliably able to discern a motive which is particularly egregious to society (like racial animus), the bottom line is still that we are punishing someone for their thoughts and not their actions. There is no more slippery slope than between “hate crime” and “thought crime,” and while the former has now become accepted within American jurisprudence, the latter concept goes against everything we supposedly stand for as a country.”
Ziegler points out that if this never happened and that the thoughts were kept in the mental psyche of all four assailants, no one would be held in jail without bail and no one would be mentally and physically scarred for rest of their lives.
Just the fact that the assailants in the Chicago hate-crime incident acted on a thought and carried out horrendous, (obviously) racially driven acts of violence justifies the level of scrutiny this case must have. They must face their punishment with a personal sense of responsibility.
But, how can there be civility with such hideous acts? The answer is seen on the American people, as the whole, who seek to freely disclose opinions without asserting violence. However, when you assert your thoughts into violence, in reality, you cross into an egregious state of being. That is what Islamic State does. This is what Dylann Roof did. This is what the Ku Klux Klan does. This is what Micah Xavier Johnson did. This is what Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington and Tanishia Covington did.
Even though the past several examples are at many different levels of criminal deviance and severity, the same basic principle applies… evil acts aren’t monochromatic.
The Chicago assailants, in my humble opinion, committed a thought crime that became much more than a spoofish thought in the back of one’s head. Their fall is their own doing. This is why they are being punished and rightfully charged for their crimes derived from even the slightest thought of hate.
In the end, all four of the assailants are American citizens. They will receive equal treatment under the law as they remain innocent until proven guilty and the justice is served, exonerated or not.
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