“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Just over a week ago, the Forum published an article by Rob Port called “ North Dakota Doesn’t Need Hate Crime Legislation“. I think you can gather from the title where he stands on the issue. Then, as a rebuttal of sorts, Jim Shaw – a former news man for WDAY – featured an article in the Forum called “ Hate Crime Legislation in N.D. is Long Overdue“. I recommend reading both of them.
Together, the two articles represent opposing sides of an issue that will likely heat up in North Dakota. Especially when the 2019 Legislative Session rolls around. The timing of Shaw’s article turned out to be interesting. After all, it was published Saturday morning– just hours before the horrific events unfolded in Charlottesville, VA where “White Nationalists” had gathered for a “Unite the Right” march.
Unless you’ve been in a coma or completely disconnected from any news at all, you’ve probably heard that these White Nationalists were met by counterprotesters who were then plowed into by a car– killing one person and injuring others.
While Charlottesville is a long ways from North Dakota, there was – unfortunately – at least one North Dakotan at Saturday’s event. Fargo man, Pete Tefft, apparently attended the Charlottesville White Nationalist’s rally.
News coverage of that can be seen here. This isn’t the first time Tefft has been in the news. Back in February, the Forum published an article about Tefft being the subject of a downtown Fargo awareness campaign to let people know he was a “White Supremacist” and “Nazi”. You can see that here. Today, the Forum published a letter from Pearce Tefft – Pete’s father – in which he wished “to loudly repudiate my son’s vile, hateful and racist rhetoric and actions”. The letter can be read herein its entirety.
With the Pete Tefft connection and the other examples like Shaw cites in his article, proponents of hate crime legislation will undoubtedly feel emboldened in their efforts here in North Dakota.
Whether it’s racial slurs or assault in Fargo; destruction of property in Grand Forks; or maiming and killing with a car in Charlottesville– the hate driving these acts is absolutely detestable. But is hate crime legislation really going to solve the problem? Or is it a knee jerk reaction that somehow makes us feel like we’re doing something? When in reality we know it accomplishes little to nothing at all.
A 2006 Los Angeles Times article made this argument:
“If their overarching purpose is to affirm the equality of all people, then the law should punish all assaults the same, regardless of the race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status of the victim. The ‘protected class’ should be human beings.”
There’s also the unintended consequences that can result from hate crime legislation. A compelling argument of this was made by current Vice President Mike Pence while he was governor of Indiana:
“The issue of hate crimes legislation that continues to be advanced on Capitol Hill is part of a larger effort that we already see working in state statutes. And however well intentioned, hate crimes statutes around the country have been used to quell religious expression. Individual pastors who may wish to preach out of Romans chapter 1 about what the Bible teaches about homosexual behavior … could be charged or subject to intimidation for simply expressing a biblical moral view on the issue of homosexual behavior.”
At the end of the day, we must face this reality… government cannot stop hate. It never has. It never will. Should the evil behavior that took place in Charlottesville on Saturday be punished? Absolutely. And let it be done to the fullest extent of the law. But let’s not pretend we need special classifications to accomplish such a thing. We don’t.
No, the changes required to stem the tide of hate will not come from piggy-back laws resulting from hate crime legislation in Washington, DC or Bismarck. The necessary changes will only come from a change of hearts and minds.
1. http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/opinion/columns/4307038-port-north-dakota-doesnt-need-hate-crime-legislation 2. http://www.inforum.com/opinion/columnists/4309893-shaw-hate-crime-legislation-nd-long-overdue
5. http://www.wday.com/news/4311766-local-man-called-out-social-media-after-attending-nationalist-rally-virginia 6. http://www.inforum.com/opinion/letters/4311880-letter-family-denounces-teffts-racist-rhetoric-and-actions 7. http://www.latimes.com/news/la-op-mcgough3dec03-story.html