Before we get into the meat of the matter of this incident at Ohio State University, it’s important that we start with an agreed-upon definition of what a “hate crime” is.
When it comes to definitions, it’s always smart to refer to the best sources of information we have. In this case, the fine folks over at Merriam Webster Dictionary define “hate crime” as: “Any of various crimes (such as assault or defacement of property) when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group (such as one based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation).”
Pretty straightforward, right?
If that’s not enough, let’s take a look at how the highest law enforcement agency in the land, the FBI, defines a “hate crime.”
“The FBI investigations of hate crimes were limited to crimes in which the perpetrators acted based on a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin.”
The FBI also investigates hate crimes as any “crimes committed against those based on biases of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.”
So, there you have it.
Driven By Anger… Or Hate?
But a recent incident at Ohio State has the definition of “hate crime” up for interpretation—and it all depends on whether the victim is white or not.
Let’s set the scene…
A Black student first hurled a racial slur at a White student standing across the street, which led to an altercation between them. As things escalated, the Black student allegedly ran towards the White student and punched him in the face.
A little while later, a Black female pulled up her car near a white male and female, allegedly yelling a racial slur towards them as well. In response, two white students approached the Black female student. She then allegedly hit the white female before a Black male student (believed to be the one involved in the first incident) joined her and assaulted the white male student.
According to the standard set forth by both the Merriam Webster Dictionary and the FBI, this is a clear-cut hate crime.
It seems obviously racially motivated, as the instigators were using racial slurs. If the roles were reversed and it were white students using racial slurs against black students, there would be no question about whether this was a hate crime or not. But because the victims were white and the alleged perpetrators were black, the incident’s status as a hate crime seems to be up in the air…
Well, at least according to some students on the campus…
While many were outraged that the duo was not originally charged for a hate crime, the student group Student Solidarity has a different take on the situation.
When A Hate Crime… ISN’T A Hate Crime
In a few quotes by the organization, they argued that the crime could NOT be a hate crime simply because the victims were white.
“The details of this incident that were shared in OSU’s public safety notice do not meet the legal definition of a hate crime. To refer to it as such solely because the alleged perpetrators used a ‘racial slur’ is illogical. Racial slurs referring to White people are not based on a history of violence & oppression towards White people. Using this ‘slur’ does not have the same violent, racist implications as a White person saying the n-word, for example, nor does it make this incident a hate crime.”
But that isn’t the definition of a hate crime, is it?
It’s not about history…
It’s not about racial slurs…
It’s about the intent being based on race, gender, nationality, sexuality, or other factors.
By all accounts, this incident SHOULD constitute a hate crime, as it is obvious that it was racially motivated.
We can’t have one-sided justice…
It needs to be across the board – and for people that don’t understand that, maybe you should take a few civics courses at your local college.
We need to be better…
And making sure that our laws and policies are fair and just is an important part of that.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.