Tony Sotelo

Megan Williams, a 20 year old black women from Charleston, WV who her
mother describes as “mentally slow” (wvgazette.com) left her house to go a
party with friends early last month, but did not return home. On Spetember
5th 2007 Megan Williams was lured to a shack in rural Logan County, West
Virginia by six white acquaintances, were she became a kidnap victim for
almost an entire week. During Megan’s terrible experience she was tortured,
raped, beaten, stabbed, called terrible names, and forced to do disgusting
and inhumane acts. While in captivity Megan was forced to eat feces – rat,
dog and human – and raped by six white men and women who held her until
Sept. 11th. A passer-by heard cries from the shed where she’d been kept,
and Logan County sheriff’s deputies found her hours later. Since this
terrible incident tool place, Megan’s story has received national media
attention sparking many prominent civil rights leaders to organize a civil
rights march in Charleston, WV next month. After crimes of this nature
occur, the next question is, “Is this, or this is not a hate crime.” Often
times the answer is much too complex to determine because of many
differentiating factors. This case is a prime example of why the term “hate
crime” is too ambiguous.


Hate based on race, religion and sexual orientation exist within many
cultural rich societies. When this type of hate fuels a person into taking
violent actions upon those they hate, it is called a hate crime; a topic
which the American public is becoming seriously concerned about. It has
been a widely discussed subject in the media, and often fuel for debates of
whether or not an individual crime can be considered a hate crime or not.

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Hate crimes in West Virginia carry a maximum 10 year penalty
(.partnersagainsthate). Williams and her family want the torture prosecuted
as a hate crime, but state or federal prosecutors have not filed those
charges. Unfortunately though, the term “hate crime” is too ambiguous.

Prosecutors in this case also say hate-crime charges could complicate their
case. Hate crimes are typically prosecuted in situations involving
strangers, they say, and Williams knew the suspects, and supposedly though
of one of the men as a love interest, before her captivity, filing a charge
of domestic assault against him in July.

Does hate crime apply on any case when a person is convicted for
inflicting damage on someone “different”? It is often difficult to set a
benchmark for measuring sufficiency of hate as a cause to label it in front
of crime. The term can be conveniently stretched and squeezed by people
with different ideas and biases. The four white policemen who brutally beat
Rodney King Jr, a black man, half to death for merely speeding is
determined by the courts judgment, as officers performing their duty. Hate,
to those particular jurors and judge, was not a valid concern. To them, the
beating was not due to the officers resentment for a black man, but because
they were simply disciplining an offender of the law. The savage beating
was unnecessary and hate was obviously the factor which induced the four
cops to perform such a brutal act.(CourtTV)
Because people have varying views and opinions, application of the
term “hate crime” is not always relevant. Can we assume the murder of
Nicole Simpson by O.J Simpson a hate crime since it involves a black man
killing a white woman or are there more in depth twist to the case? People
do not just look at the difference of race, sexual preference, or religion
between the victim and the convicted and draw conclusions of whether or not
the crime is hate related, they examine all the other psychological
elements also. The most proven way of judgment is to analyze: if the victim
was of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation, would the same
injurious action still have taken place? In order to picture the virtual
scenario, we would need to think critically and be able to outline hate,
and to do that, we need to understand why people hate. (www.clccrul.org)
Another incident which has been considered a “hate crime” is the story
of the Jena 6. Six black students at Jena High School in Central Louisiana
were arrested last December after a school fight in which a white student
was beaten and suffered a concussion and multiple bruises. The six black
students were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy. They now face
up to 100 years in prison without parole. The fight took place after a
black student sat under a tree in the schoolyard where only white students
sat. The next day three nooses were hanging from the tree. They now face up
to 100 years in prison without parole. The Jena Six, as they have come to
be known, range in age from 15 to 17 years old. Weeks later, an all-white
jury took less than two days to convict 17 year-old Mychal Bell, the first
of the Jena Six to go on trial. He was convicted of aggravated battery and
conspiracy charges and now faces up to 22 years in prison. Black residents
say that race has always been an issue in Jena, which is 85 percent white,
and that the charges against the Jena Six are no exception. In this case
there are multiple examples of hate on both sides. The question now is left
up to the courts, as to whether or not to tag the hate crime charge to the
Jena 6 or leave the charges as is. The assault was defiantly racially
motivated, but were the victims deserving of their beatings because of
their public displays of bigotry, and their frequent use of racial slurs
toward black students. An even more interesting question in this case is,
“Is Mychal Bell a villain or a hero?” The answer depends on who you ask,
that is why the term “hate crime” is too ambiguous. (www.postchronicle.com)
From very young, we develop stereotypes; a direct effect from the
workings of society. Popular generalizations such as Black people eating up
social security money and Asians trying to buy America are passed around.

Yet, in reality, statistics show that much more Whites are on social
security than are blacks and only the Japanese Corporations are doing the
purchasing, not Asians, particularly Asian Americans who have nothing to do
with them besides being Asian. (www.changingminds.org)
Since the Williams incident, Megan has received thousands of letters
and cards, gaining support from people across the entire nation including
many civil rights groups. Some have even donated to Megan’s college fund so
she can someday obtain her GED and reach her goal of becoming a nurse’s
assistant. Unfortunately these acts of support will not bring back the hair
Megan lost or the scars she sit wears from the beatings and rape. Just like
no matter what the outcome is in the Jena 6 case, six young men will
forever be scared by the injustice opposed on them by the court in the form
of overly severe punishment. Not to mention the football scholarships
Mychal Bell will more then likely loss as a result of this highly
publicized incident. As American citizens, we must teach our youth things
like kindness, acceptance, and love. We need to do whatever is necessary to
tear down racial prejudice and spread compassion. Hate crimes undermine
this message by implying that all crimes committed against a person of
another race are done so strictly due to hate for that persons race, which
is not always true. The “hate crime” label has been stretched and skewed,
while being applied to too many crimes, this is why the term “hate crime”
is too ambiguous.


Press, Associated. “‘I just hope they fry for what they did to me’.”
Charleston Gazette 10/24/2007 3. 10/26/07
.


Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. “Hate crime laws.”
Hate Crime Laws. 2003. Partners Against Hate. 13 Nov 2007
.


Cannon, Lou. “Rodney King’s Legacy.” Author Lou Cannon looks back on the
case that shook Los Angeles to its core . 4/28/98. Court TV. 13 Nov 2007
.


Gottchall, Judge. “Hate Crimes.” 2006. Chicage Lawyers Committee. 13 Nov
2007 .


Barron , Mike. “The Jena 6 (Jena Six) And Louisiana Racial Tensions.” the
Jena 6. 9/4/07. Post-Chronicle. 13 Nov 2007 .


“Explanations.” Changing Minds. 11/1/07. Race. 13 Nov 2007
.