If hate crimes are exceptionally objectionable, deserving of especially harsh punishment, then what about anti-hate crimes? Do we go a little easier on them?
I'd say no, of course not. People can't go around cracking heads in the name of anti-racism.
But if we're being strictly logical here, shouldn't this be treated as a lesser crime?
I got to thinking about this after reading about that group of people from Indiana, supposedly on an anti-hate mission, who allegedly charged into a Tinley Park restaurant Saturday and beat up a bunch of diners they thought were white supremacists.
We'll leave it to the lawyers to figure out if anybody really was a white supremacist and who beat up whom. But if the facts eventually bear out the claim -- that the motivation for these alleged crimes was, weirdly enough, anti-racism -- do we cut the defendants a break?
At the heart of the question is a skepticism, held by many Americans who are properly appalled by racism, about the whole notion of creating a class of hate crimes -- against minorities and gays and others -- that by statute establish enhanced penalties. They are uneasy that hate crimes criminalize not only acts, but the thoughts behind those acts.
The proper time to consider a defendant's motivations for better or worse, they say, is only after he or she has been convicted and is being sentenced. A judge or jury, for example, typically will go easy on a woman who killed her husband after years of being abused.