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For release: February 21, 2000
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New study: Blacks are twice as likely to be charged with a "hate crime"

WASHINGTON, DC -- A grisly murder in Texas has confirmed what Libertarians suspected all along: Hate crime laws are being used to punish African-Americans at a dramatically higher rate than racist white criminals.

"If black Americans thought that hate crime legislation would protect them against racist whites, they were sadly mistaken," said Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party national director. "Instead, hate crime laws are apparently being used as another legal weapon to prosecute African-Americans."

The hate-crime issue has been thrust back into the national spotlight because of a controversial San Antonio, Texas case.

Early this month, an 18-year-old black man went on a bloody crime spree, attacking two elderly white men and bludgeoning an 82-year-old woman to death. The suspect, Obie Weathers, was arrested on February 15, and reportedly told police, "I hate all white people."

Prosecutors are now investigating the case as a possible hate crime, which puts Obie Weathers in a fast-growing category of criminals: African-Americans who face extra-long prison sentences because they violated state or federal laws that punish "racist" thoughts.

While such laws were touted as a way to protect minorities against violent white racists, the actual result has been the exact opposite, noted Dasbach: Blacks are twice as likely as whites to be charged with a "hate crime."

According to data from a National Crime Victimization Survey, published by the U.S. Department of Justice, only 2,336 whites were charged with anti-black "hate" crimes in 1997, while 718 blacks were charged with anti-white crimes.

Adjusting for the fact that blacks make up just 13 percent of the population, they were statistically twice as likely as whites to face prosecution for hate crimes.

"It's another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences: Legislation designed to punish white racists has wound up condemning more blacks to prison to serve longer sentences," said Dasbach. "Perhaps the politicians who wrote hate-crime laws were well-intended. But when it comes to the impact these laws have on African-Americans, the road to prison is apparently paved with good intentions."

The fact that Libertarians have profound concerns about the benefits of hate crime laws, said Dasbach, doesn't mean they are insensitive to racism, or tolerant of violent crime.

"If Obie Weathers is guilty of the crimes he has been charged with, he should be punished," he said. "Murder is murder and assault is assault -- it doesn't matter if Obie Weathers' motives were generic hate or racist hate. He should be prosecuted for his actions, not for his opinions."

In other words, Libertarians believe that people who commit the same crime should get the same punishment, regardless of the race of their victim, said Dasbach.

"Crimes against a certain protected class of citizens should not be treated more seriously than crimes against anyone else," he said. "To do so is un-American, and a violation of equal justice under the law. It also creates the ironic situation we now face: Laws that were supposed to stop racism apparently have racist consequences -- making hate crime laws themselves a hate crime against African-Americans."

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