The video of a white, mentally disabled young man being tortured was streamed live on Facebook Tuesday . While the news media blurred his face in the video to guard his identity, it could not obscure the terror in his expression, even with duct tape over his mouth. He cowered in a corner as his four adult African American captors beat him, kicked him, cut him, burned him, and made him drink from a toilet, while they shouted “F*** Trump!” and “F*** white people!” The young man had been reported missing by his parents, who had not seen him since December 31, 2015.
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Local authorities in Chicago, where this kidnapping and torture occurred, say they aren’t sure yet if this crime will be identified as a hate crime. They do know that the victim was at the address for at least 24 hours. Authorities already had his captors in custody after being called to the address for a potential assault issue. After assisting the victim, who was walking down the street in shorts, they learned of the torture and were made aware of the video. Hmmm. Okay. Well, it is still early in the investigation, and, because this incident has the potential to become a racial land mine if it’s mischaracterized in some way, everyone is being extra careful about what they say. But, from where most of us are sitting, if this incident doesn’t perfectly exemplify a hate crime, then nothing does.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” To the average American citizen, this crime represents bias against both race AND disability. But, the language of the law is important because prosecutors will have to prove that the crime was motivated by race, gender, or disability. It’s hard to imagine it was motivated by anything else, considering the context of the video.
In 1990, the Hate Crime Statistics Act was created to collect data concerning hate crimes across the U.S., but didn’t include hate crimes against people with disabilities until 1994. The 2015 report from Chicago alone included 96 hate crimes, 30.9% of which were committed by African Americans and 6.3% of which were against whites. Oddly enough, though Chicago is required by law to report hate crimes against disabled persons as well, their table does not reflect this data.
Why should we care if it’s declared a hate crime? Well, it would mean that the federal government, by way of the FBI, would take over the investigation. That could be good or bad. Seeing that the crime occurred in Chicago, where local authorities haven’t exactly been on top of things in the crime department lately, it’s probably a good thing. Also, if perpetrators are convicted of a hate crime, they receive longer sentences under federal jurisdiction and will have a federal crime on their records.
There are still a lot of people who argue against federal hate crime laws to begin with. Some don’t see the value in them. After all, in this case, torture is torture, regardless of why it happened. And in this case, the “why” may be best left up to forensic psychologists down the line. What these four twisted and sick individuals did was deplorable. Hate or no hate.
Besides, there’s enough outrage on the part of the American people about this incident to make sure these perpetrators pay a heavy price. This kind of thing is so abhorrent to the American psyche that they will probably have to lock these idiots up just to keep them breathing. Vigilante justice is not exactly unfamiliar to Americans.
So, what do you think? Was this a hate crime or not? Does it even matter? What should happen to these four criminals?