Hate Crimes –
Criminal Law and Identity Politics

by James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter

This book places in socio-legal perspective both the hate crime problem and society’s response to it.

From the outset, Jacobs and Potter adopt a skeptical if not critical stance. They argue that hate crime is a hopelessly muddled concept and that legal definitions of the term are riddled with ambiguity and subjectivity. Moreover, no matter how hate crime is defined, the authors find no evidence to support the claim that the US is experiencing a hate crime epidemic–nor that the number or rate of hate crimes is at an historic zenith. Furthermore, assert the authors, the federal effort to establish a hate crime accounting system has been a failure.

The underlying conduct that hate crime law prohibits is already subject to criminal punishment. Jacobs and Potter maintain that there is no persuasive rationale for saying that hate crimes are “worse” or “more serious” than similar crimes attributable to other anti-social motivations.

Also, they argue that the effort to single out hate crime for greater punishment, in effect, is an effort to punish some offenders more seriously because of their bad beliefs, opinions, or values, thus implicating the First Amendment.

Jabobs and Potter show that the recriminalization of hate crime has little (if any) value with respect to law enforcement or criminal justice. Indeed, enforcement of such laws may in fact exacerbate intergroup tensions rather than eradicate prejudice.


I haven’t read the above book, but everything in the summary review says what I also see happening in society and encompassing the legal theoretical and political criticisms I put forth regarding hate crime legislation.

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