Poor Babies

by digby

I think what I love most about Kathleen Parker is her sensitivity. She's always looking out for the down trodden and the disadvantaged. For instance today she discusses the incident in which columnist Leonard Pitts Jr has been threatened by white supremacists because he disagreed that a certain black on white crime was a "hate crime" just because it featured black criminals and white victims. She writes:

Adding still more fuel to the media bias claim is a group of white supremacists on one side and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. on the other. Mr. Pitts pointed out that the Knoxville incident wasn't considered a hate crime and refuted claims that black crime is underreported. He ended his column with four words for whites who feel oppressed: "Cry me a river."

That's pure columnist flare, but decidedly, um, gutsy considering the likely reaction from people who are not widely known for tolerance. A neo-Nazi group has posted Mr. Pitts' address and phone number and his wife's name on its Web site. Mr. Pitts has received several death threats.

In 2005, among about 7,000 hate crimes - mostly intimidation (48.9 percent) and simple assault (30.2 percent) - just six murders and three rapes were reported as fitting the hate crime definition, according to the FBI's Hate Crime Statistics report. Though we may hate "hate crimes," those numbers hardly seem sufficient to justify extra laws designating a special category for certain victims.

Groups such as the Anti-Defamation League have insisted that hate crime laws are necessary because crimes that make minority communities fearful "damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities." The Duke and Knoxville cases cast doubts on that premise. It is human nature to resent groups and individuals deemed more special than others.

Signaling through laws (or media treatment) that one group's suffering is more grievous than another's - or that one person's murder is worse than another's - is also likely to fragment communities, as well as to engender the very animosities such laws are meant to deter.

The reason we shouldn't have hate crimes laws is because when you make it a crime to target minorities because of their race, religion or status it upsets the people who commit those crimes, and that makes them commit more of them. Right now we have so few it's hardly worth mentioning, but they'll go up unless you stop making these white supremacists and homophobes feel so bad about themselves. It's a self-esteem problem not a matter of law.

"Signaling" that, as a group, blacks or jews or gays have suffered more than the white majority is just a bad idea, even though it is ... the truth. Best not stir that pot and get everyone all riled up. After all, if a few blacks or gays get dragged behind the back of trucks or beaten to pulp by men screaming "faggot", well, that's just not justification enough to make the Aryan brotherhood feel bad about themselves. In fact, it's downright "gutsy" to even bring it up.

This is yet another chapter of the endless American soap opera called "As The Racist Turns" in which a scrappy but put-upon white minority has been egregiously discriminated against for years and they are not going to take it any more. George Will wrote just the other day that the white conservative southern followers of George Wallace were an "aggrieved minority," so perhaps Parker should reconsider her stance and simply lobby to have southern, white conservatives fall under the rubric of the hate crimes laws themselves. Then maybe they wouldn't be so upset about not being as "special." There's nothing more delicate than the tender feelings of racist hate mongers. The least we can do is treat them with the sensitivity and sympathy they deserve.

H/T to BB