28 March 2012

Hate crimes

Racism is a tricky bastard. It really is. It's reared its ugly head again recently with the death of Trayvon Martin. His death was at the hand of the gun of a man who was scared of him simply for being a black kid in a hoodie. It's awful. And of course, because of Florida gun laws being what they are, the killer hasn't been charged.

I've seen a few people calling for this to be a hate crime. I don't think so. Not this time. Why? He didn't kill him to get rid of another black kid or because he hated black people. He didn't go looking to kill a "coon" (as he can be heard calling the boy on the tape). What happened is that fear kicked in. The man was so afraid of black youths that he thought his life was in danger. The racism was so ingrained that it didn't matter a bit that the boy was unarmed. Zimmerman thought he was dangerous. Because of his colour. That's not a hate crime in the traditional sense. That's a crime of ignorance, of fear, of abject stupidity. Don't get me wrong. This man needs to spend some time in prison, a lot of time, where I'm sure he'll find that fear of black men ramped up, but it was not a hate crime as we normally think of them.

Imagine this guy. He's a security guard in a gated community. Gotta keep the riffraff out, right? He's on high alert at all times. He's grown up with racist parents, in a seriously racist neighbourhood. He's learned that black people are scary. They're criminals. He knows this because he watches Fox News and his buddies say so. And the crime demographics! Look at them! Black people are incarcerated at a way higher rate than white people, so they MUST be criminals. Right? (No, of course, we know that's bullshit. Because we're smarter than this asshole.) He's seen Cops. He knows. And then, OMG, there's a black guy in his neighbourhood! A youth! The worst kind. And he's wearing a hoodie. WHOOBOY! This is what all of his training was for. He calls 911. Tells the kid to stop. OMG the kid isn't stopping! And he's black so obviously in this guy's mind he's up to no good. This is a white neighbourhood. And so the guy shoots. That's what he's been trained to do when he's in danger. And he thinks he is.

And it's a crying shame. A sickening crime. A travesty and a tragedy. But it's not a hate crime.