Hate crimes are the dream of politicians. They know they can use government to fan the flames of racial unrest and turn tragedy into a national call to action as soon as they have helped the media render judgment. Justice in some form or other comes later. In 2012 it was the Trayvon Martin shooting. Now fate has dropped the Michael Brown incident into Democratic laps just before midterms.
The White House didn’t waste any time weighing in on the newest cause celebre, a racially-charged shooting that has all the trappings of an explosive campaign issue. The president and Mrs. Obama sent their sympathies and the White House made sure we knew that:
As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed.1
Yes, Eric Holder is on it. So is the Congressional Black Caucus. Members sent a letter to the attorney general insinuating that this is a pattern, not an isolated incident:
The facts that have begun to emerge surrounding the August 9, 2014 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri raise potentially serious concerns, particularly because it may be part of a continuing pattern of the use of deadly force by police against unarmed African-Americans.2
The letter never mentioned hate crimes, but we get the message.
Government + race = hate crimes?
The media and politicians are quick to seize anything that screams race, so if there is a pattern of first responders shooting African-Americans, this would not be the first we’d have heard of it. Whatever happened in Missouri, there is a long and honored tradition of public officials using race for their own benefit. The letter to Holder asked that he “expand the scope of federal involvement,”3 not surprising given the racial resentment the White House and Congressional Democrats have helped cultivate with accusations of inequality maintained by America’s elite.
Politicians relished the opportunity presented by the Trayvon Martin incident (see: Who Benefits Most From Racial Inequality Con?). House Democrats sent a letter to Holder to get the hate crimes investigation started:
The publicly available information about the shooting appears to establish federal jurisdiction to investigate the case under recently enacted 18 U.S.C. §249 (Hates Crimes) …”4
The media warned of riots in the event George Zimmerman was acquitted. Those riots didn’t happen, but there has been plenty of trouble in Ferguson. Talk of calming tensions5 seems like a minimalist response to what we should be calling hate crimes directed against the community where the shooting took place.
In his “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” speech, President Obama said:
So I’m glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into it, I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what’s taking place.6
Isolated incidents are not “what’s taking place.” They are not a “continuing pattern,” either, any more than what happened in Ukraine shows a pattern of planes being shot from the sky. Terrible things happen every day, but it doesn’t mean that hate crimes and racial intolerance are the norm in America.
When are looting and violence hate crimes?
What are hate crimes? The Department of Justice’s description sounds suspiciously similar to what is going on in Ferguson:
The purveyors of hate use explosives, arson, weapons, vandalism, physical violence, and verbal threats of violence to instill fear in their victims, leaving them vulnerable to more attacks and feeling alienated, helpless, suspicious and fearful.7
We tend to call these types of violent protests “racial unrest,” never hate crimes, no matter who or what they are directed at.
Do public announcements from the president mobilizing the machinery of government make the situation better, or do they turn a tragedy into a hate crime before the facts are judged? We went from a shooting in a Midwest suburb to Department of Justice and FBI investigations overseen by America’s Commander in Chief:
I’ve already tasked the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate the death of Michael Brown, along with local officials on the ground.8
Perhaps in the next few days we’ll know whether putting Holder’s team on the job calms the situation down, or only gives protesters a larger reason to justify their hate-tinged response.