Hate Crimes, Hateful people

The crime, a chilling execution carried out in a typical suburban school — allegedly by a boy who probably hasn’t started shaving — has shocked Oxnard and captured the attention of gay and transgender activists around the country. On Friday, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a statement saying, in part, “Our hearts go out to Lawrence’s family — and to all young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids who are — right now, right this minute — being bullied and beaten in school while adults look the other way.” Another group, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) called for passage of the Matthew Shepard Act, which would dramatically increase the power of the federal government to prosecute hate crimes.

But while King’s short life and violent death are surpassingly sad, it’s not clear that officials at E.O. Green Junior High, his school, “looked the other way.” What’s more, the task force is exaggerating the frequency of assaults on gay kids, the vast majority of whom make it through school safe and happy.

História da Time sobre o assassinato de um guri numa escola da Califórnia umas semanas atrás. Basicamente, ele levou um tiro na cabeça de um colega por ser gay. A história é relativamente comum, embora a Times seja bastante cautelosa – e justa – ao dizer que não é tão comum assim.

O NYT tem uma história parecida, que leva a questão dos Hate Crimes mais longe:

Suddenly, this was no ordinary hate-crime trial. And with the media and gay and lesbian advocates watching the case closely, the question of what really happened to Michael Sandy at Plum Beach now became complicated by other questions. Was Anthony Fortunato really gay, or was this just a ploy to undermine the D.A.’s case? If he was telling the truth, is a gay man even capable of committing a gay hate crime? And what, at the end of the day, is a hate crime, anyway?

É um debate interessante, e é um pouco parecido com a discussão da lei de crimes hediondos no Brasil. Basicamente, como a gente faz hierarquia de crimes? E será que dá para lidar com um evento tão complexo como um assassinato em termos maniqueístas? Não sou criminologista, e não conheço bem o debate, mas acho interessante ver como este tipo de legislação, inicialmente bem intencionada, leva à consequencias bizarras – já que o mundo não funciona em termos tão binários.

Uma das passagens que eu achei mais interessante no texto do NYT é a seguinte:

It’s hard to argue with the sentiment behind hate-crime laws. Who, after all, isn’t against hate? Many states began creating a special category of punishment for racial prejudice or homophobia or anti-Semitism in the nineties as a response to bias crimes that clearly seemed to be about much more than violence against just one person—like the Yusuf Hawkins case. They were meant to acknowledge that certain crimes resonate more than others—and are, in effect, attacks on our society. At the time, these new laws seemed like a healthy reflex of a justice system that prides itself on protecting minority rights. The politicians who created them, and the constituencies that supported them, agreed that creating special punishment for crimes of hate—singling out racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism as so abominable as to require a unique reaction—didn’t just punish a criminal but helped to correct a larger social ill.

But the Anthony Fortunato case points out the limitations of hate-crime laws. Lots of gay hate crimes, for one, are committed by confused, self-loathing gay people. Does the perpetrators’ gayness make their crimes any less horrible? Should it even be considered a mitigating factor? Since Michael Sandy was black, why weren’t Fortunato and his friends charged with hate crimes against blacks?


Sampson would prefer to see a law that “looks at a person’s prior acts.” The goal would be to identify whether the person was truly bigoted—and whether the crime was committed specifically out of hate. Testimony could be given; witnesses called, he says. But even then, he concedes, such a law would be imperfect. How can you know what’s truly in a person’s heart?

Those are practical, legal issues. In the end, there’s still a larger philosophical question hovering over the whole notion of a hate crime: Why does it matter if a murderer kills for reasons of bias? Isn’t a murder a murder?

No fim das contas, tu sempre tá diante de um assassinato, e as peculiaridades de um assassinato – será que nao seria uma idéia melhor lidar com isso de acordo com as peculiaridades de cada caso, ao invés de generalizar uma forma de crime para uma forma específiaca de punição automática?


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