Really. Remember when the idea of Hate Crimes was open for debate, and a heated one at that? Remember when the idea was considered a dangerous step by some very sane, thoughtful individuals who saw danger in the idea that the reason you kill somebody based upon subjective labels could indicate whether your crime was worse than killing someone else, all things equal?
This came back to me as I find out, just strolling through the Internet, that a historic Orthodox Christian Church in New York City was burned to the ground on Orthodox Easter Sunday. You'll forgive me for not mentioning it earlier. I didn't hear about it. I didn't see anything about it. I did notice something on the news about fires in NYC, but when I checked, it looked like commuter fires or something similar.
Anyway, the story I found in the NYT went out of its way to point out that there was no suspicion. Think on that. Imagine if a Synagogue was burned to the ground. Or a Black church. Or a Mosque. What do you want to bet that the theory would almost universally be 'hate crime', with overwhelming evidence needed to convince us otherwise. With no more information than we have, we would have assumed hate crime where in this case there is none.
None, at least, according to the NYT. Over at the New York Post, it looks like some are noticing that there were three other churches that burned on that same Sunday. That is prompting some to go radical and think, you know, that there could be a connection. I'm not saying they were the result of hate crimes or deliberate attacks. I'm saying that, if this had been certain other locations burned, you can bet the media headlines would start with hate crime and only retreat if overwhelming evidence suggested otherwise.
It reminds me of a string of church fires here in north central Ohio a few years back. Most were Catholic. One was the Catholic church in my childhood hometown. They happened within a few weeks of each other. Our local news mentioned each one, but with no connection. The national media didn't cover it at all. I still don't know anything about the cases, since nobody is bothering with them.
So you see, that is a problem with Hate Crimes. They are based on subjective labels, and they are subjectively applied based upon the proprieties or fancies - or dare I say, prejudices - of the moment. They are also a way of starting down that path that says 'these people are, in the end, a little more important than those people over there.' And that can be seen in the lack of coverage or concern given to what, if it was a story about fires across a string of Mosques or Synagogues or Gay Bars, would warrant enough attention to overtake the media obsession with Donald Trump.