Carol Platt Liebau: What a Ham

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What a Ham

Local radio in Los Angeles was discussing this story today -- apparently, some schoolchildren put a ham sandwich on a lunch table where some Muslim Somali children were eating. The action is being treated as a "hate crime."

Obviously, assuming that the perpetrators knew about the Muslim aversion to pork products, the act was cruel and inappropriate, and obviously deserving of reprimand, especially given that part of what schools are supposed to do is to help socialize children. But we're sliding down a slippery slope when we start designating non-violent (though obviously offensive and wrong) behavior as "hate crimes." Would it be a "hate crime" for a child deliberately to eat a ham sandwich at the same table as the Muslim children? Is it a "hate crime" to express support for the Holocaust in the presence of Jewish people?

The problem with any hate crimes legislation whatsoever is that it punishes thought, rather than behavior. If we begin adding non-violent behavior to the list of what constitutes "hate crimes," then after a while, we are punishing thoughts and non-violent actions, which could lead to some very troubling outcomes.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jack said...

My understanding of the original definition of "hate crime" was an act that was normally criminal that had a racist or other discriminatory motive and therefor carried a harsher penalty. What is the normal crime here? It seems this is a simple act of hatred (if, indeed, that is not too strong a word) but no crime. As you say, it is inappropriate and punishable but hardly a crime.

12:41 PM  
Blogger The Flomblog said...

My generation - the Somali kid pounds on the christian kid, they fight for a while and then go play ball or something.

Todays generation - The lawyers pound on each other while the parent's yell and scream.

Let the kids deal with it. They are much better at this than we are.

3:38 PM  

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