As Hate Crime Soars, Can Our Laws Ensure Justice? | WYPR

As Hate Crime Soars, Can Our Laws Ensure Justice?

May 15, 2017

Do laws against hate crimes make any difference?
Credit Courtesy Philadelphia Gay News

Since the 1960s, a succession of federal and state laws have been enacted to impose tougher penalties on perpetrators of hate crimes -- criminal acts that target victims because of their race, religion, gender or ethnicity.  But as the frequency of hate crimes has increased across the country in recent years, some lawmakers and civil liberties activists have questioned whether hate-crime laws are an effective response to acts of bigotry.  Today, we’ll explore that issue with a panel of experts: 

Faizan Syed is the executive director of the Missouri Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group that works to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America.  Mr. Sayed joins us on the line from his office in St. Louis;

Robert West is CAIR-Missouri's Civil Rights Staff Attorney; and

Frederick Lawrence is a lawyer, civil liberties scholar and CEO of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, a Washington, DC-based honor society that promotes excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. He is the author of Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law.  In the 1980s, Lawrence served as the Chief of the Civil Rights Unit in the Office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, working under then-US Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.  Mr. Lawrence has also served as dean of the George Washington University law school, and as President of Brandeis University.  He is currently a Senior Research Scholar and Visiting Professor of Law at the Yale Law School...

It’s terrible, but legal, to be a racist.  When bigotry is behind a crime, what’s the best way to prosecute the criminal?