Criminalization Won't Stop the Violence

Nathan Runkle, the executive director of Mercy for Animals (MFA), was attacked recently outside a gay nightclub in Dayton, Ohio. The attack on Runkle is not an isolated act of a single hateful individual, and I think anytime we hear about violence like this it is an opportunity to integrate a broader understanding of violence and oppression into our thoughts and actions.

Unfortunately, the approach MFA is taking to address anti-gay violence is also tragic and far too common. In the wake of the attack against Runkle, MFA issued a press release with the three part headline: "Gay Leader of National Animal Rights Organization Brutally Attacked in Apparent Hate-Motivated Crime: Police Investigating Felonious Assault Case: Victim Hopes Attack will Lead to Inclusion of Gays in Ohio Hate Crime Law."

Each of the three statements that make up the headline of the MFA release emphasizes an appeal to criminalization and the perpetuation of the violent system of law enforcement. I can't support Runkle's call to strengthen Ohio's hate crimes legislation. My reasons are best summed up by Jack from the blog Angry Brown Butch in a wonderful post regarding hate crimes legislation:

I disagree with this response. I cannot see how hate crimes legislation can do anything to protect anyone - queer and trans people, people of color, women, and other victims of hate crimes. Hate crimes legislation only works after the fact, after someone has been victimized, hurt, or killed. Hate crimes legislation cannot undo what has been done. Nor can it undo what has been done to our society and to the individuals within it: the inscription of hatred, of intolerance, of prejudice upon our psyches. Hate crimes don't occur because there aren't enough laws against them, and hate crimes won't stop when those laws are in place. Hate crimes occur because, time and time again, our society demonstrates that certain people are worth less than others; that certain people are wrong, are perverse, are immoral in their very being; that certain people deserve discrimination, derision, and disrespect. Read more...