The politics of hate

By David Horowitz

By Letters to the Editor

Published November 2, 2000 8:10AM (EST)

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David Horowitz makes a simple error found in so many discussions of race in America.

The mistake is to consider "white" and "black" as interchangeable categories. Horowitz brings up the case of the murder of a white child by a black man screaming racial epithets. I do not ever mean to say that this act is anything but unfathomably deplorable, but I must argue against Horowitz's (mis)use of it. He claims this is as much a "hate crime" as the dragging death of James Byrd. On the surface, this makes sense -- white and black are both races, why can't a hate crime go either way?

The answer is simple: Being black -- the concept or the existential reality -- is fundamentally loaded in American culture with the oppression the race has faced, with the disempowerment of the race in contemporary society, with all the inequities that go along with being a minority. Being white has none of this baggage, it has not such a visceral history.

So, a "hate crime" against a black person (and obviously, this could cover any minority of race, gender, class or sexual preference), or hate speech against black people, necessarily taps into the history of oppression and all the evil and violence that has been brought on the race. When a white person acts out this hate, he or she acts out again the horrors of the past.

A "hate crime" cannot be committed by a black person against a white person because these features -- the recalling and the reenactment of hate and violence -- are not present. A black person can commit a crime against a white person for which they should be seriously punished, should be shunned, should be feared, but it is not a "hate crime." That Horowitz labels it as such implies that he has forgotten the history of America, say, 1660 to 1960.

When Horowitz extends his mistaken theorizing beyond the equation of two murders to the equation of the epithet "racist" to racial epithets, he takes his argument to its truly offensive extreme. Being called a "racist" is a horrible thing, but it can never measure up to the recalling and reenactment of evil and violence that a racial slur imparts immediately. Even if we accept, as Horowitz seems to, that it is wrong to throw around the term "racist" when discussing an institution that supports segregation and opposes miscegenation, it is still evident that the evil of a racial slur that draws upon a history of evil is above and beyond a mistaken attack on a member of the majority.

This was probably perhaps a bit academic, but I don't know any better way to make my point. It is offensive to the history of America and to the history of the black race to pretend that, in our society, we can interchange white and black. Equality and reducibility are not the same thing.

-- Mikael Haxby

David Horowitz keenly captures the essence of "hate crimes" laws, as well as other important issues, in his excellent column.

Those who would impose Orwellian thought crimes laws are shortsighted nitwits at best. "Hate crimes" laws played well in the Soviet Union. The thought of such an abomination in the U.S. should make decent people's skin crawl.

Bravo to Horowitz, one of the last columnists published worth reading.

-- Craig D. Cox

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