I absolutely love writing...I absolutely hate arguing...I come from an extremely large family who I believe could make up the great debaters...they are sure of themselves and their thoughts and opinions...while I am not an introvert I do believe there is something beautiful about putting ideas on the table and listening to what others have to say without getting into a heated debate that leaves someone with sweaty palms and a racing pulse...this is why I developed my writing skills over the years...I would rather throw the idea out there and then watch as everyone else argues the idea - after all that is a good journalist right? Someone that can really get the gears in your mind turning...
So this is what I have been thinking a lot about lately. The idea of a hate crime. The word bothers me.
In 2005 my son's father African American father was murdered in cold blood. He was 23 years old and shot three times in the head, left in an alley to die alone. Over the years that followed I have made countless unreturned phone calls to the homicide department, made pleas to news reporters to cover the story, and tried in vain to investigate what happened on my own. What I have uncovered is not what has happened to Brian, but instead something even more sinister in this country. As a caucasian american, I was blissfully ignorant to the value system that we as a society have placed on human lives. Brian's death made it so brutally clear to me. Both consciously and unconsciously we have allowed ourselves to be desensitized to the loss of certain lives in this country. Watch the evening news. If a child disappears, we see that covered, but let's go a little deeper. What if a white woman disappears? Lets point out a few examples like Stacy Peterson and Lacy Peterson - we as Americans eat that up...white American women in their prime, lives cut short, no doubt what happened is nothing short of disgusting...but what if a black woman disappears? Well you see they need to disappear in groups before they make the headline news - only after 12 African American women were killed in LA were they featured on America's Most Wanted. And I can tell you from experience how newsworthy a black man's death is. At seven months pregnant I waddled in to the Detroit Free Press hoping to get some much needed coverage on Brian's case. The reporter graciously listened to my ramblings before he explained "Ma'am there is 19,000 unsolved homicides in this city and this type of thing happens every day. It's just not news worthy - I'm sorry." The media is just reflecting what is a much greater issue within our society, a hierarchy of human life.
In sentencing individuals for murder we see the valuing of life as well. Murdering certain individuals may only land you 7 years while killing others can land you the death penalty. Some people believe this is appropriate, I do not. How are we to expect people to value human life when we have differing opinion on whose life is worth what? Ok but back to the hate crimes, so when a crime is committed against someone, it is hate filled. You do not kill or injure a person filled with warm fuzzy feelings. I know when Brian was shot it was not a moment filled with happiness and joy. All crime victims experience pain and brutality. While I abhor violence and believe fully that anyone who victimizes another should pay the consequences for their actions, I believe that our society needs to stop perpetuating further ways to separate and classify people and crimes. It seems to me that instead of passing another law that would further allow our citizens and legal system to separate and classify who is valuable and who is not we should work on the laws we have and the morals we do not have. So many times in an effort to seek a solution to something so vast we forget to look at the solutions that are so simple. When did we stop remembering the golden rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? There was no additional clause in there. It was pretty straightforward. The farther we get away from the basics the more we search for answers we already have. While the idea of The Mathew Shepherd Hate Crime Bill is beautiful and no one should be abused, mistreated, or discriminated against (in his case ultimately killed) it is ultimately counterproductive as it broadens a divide that we should seek to close. Don’t give each life a different value – we are all the same – isn’t that what we all want anyway?