Racism is abhorrent. But it should not be criminal. Two stories today struck me for their window into a dangerous world in which one’s thoughts or beliefs, however abhorrent or morally wrong, become subject to criminal prosecution. As is usually the case, we need only look to our British brethren to see the dangers of this Orwellian trend of making racism a crime.
A UK soccer player was found not guilty today in a criminal prosecution where he was charged with a “racially aggravated offense” for calling another soccer player, Ferdinand, who plays for Queens Park Rangers, a “f—— black c—” as the pair traded insults during a game last October. Seriously? This warrants a criminal prosecution?
Apparently so. According to reports on CNN tonight Alison Saunders, chief crown prosecutor for London, defended the decision to bring the case to trial. “The very serious allegation at the heart of this case was one of racial abuse. It was our view that this was not ‘banter’ on the football pitch and that the allegation should be judged by a court,” she said in a prepared statement.
This is too Orwellian for me. If the soccer leagues wanted to impose a penalty in an attempt to stop players from using racial epithets, that would be fine with me. But criminalizing this behavior is overboard. This is not just “thought police” in theory, this is thought police in practice. If racial slurs can be criminalized, then eventually any thinking that can be opposed by a politically-strident group can become a criminal activity.
This kind of thinking is not too far from reality in the United States where we already have “hate crimes.” Murder, assault and battery and other crimes can also be labeled “hate crimes” even though the underlying activity is actually criminal. If someone murders another human being, does it really make any difference if the motivation is racial or otherwise? Murder is the offense irrespective of the underlying reason.
The FBI announced today that in the George Zimmerman case in Florida (where he is accused of murdering Trayvon Martin) that racism was not a motivation. Why should we care? The Miami Herald reports, “After interviewing nearly three dozen people in the George Zimmerman murder case, the FBI found no evidence that racial bias was a motivating factor in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, records released Thursday show. Even the lead detective in the case, Sanford Detective Chris Serino, told agents that he thought Zimmerman profiled Trayvon because of his attire and the circumstances – but not his race.”
See, we are already on that slippery slope of Orwellian Thought Police. Suppose George Zimmerman’s actions had been motivated by racism. That should not be a factor in whether or not he is ultimately found guilty. Should he be found guilty, that guilt should be guilt on the elements of second degree murder, not second degree murder and racism.
Racism is not a crime. It’s just boorish, immoral behavior.