I’m on record as being somewhat uncomfortable with hate crimes legislation. I’m just not wild about the government punishing people for what’s in their thoughts. But I do see why society might want to make racial animus an aggravating factor in crimes.

It’s complicated, and that makes me think that prosecutors should show some flex when it comes to slapping a hate crime designation on top of a crime. But reasonable people will disagree, and I get that.

What I don’t get is how any rational human being could legitimately think that a small child is guilty of a “hate crime.” I don’t even see how a 6th grader — an 11-year-old kid — has the mens rea to commit a hate crime. Eleven-year-olds don’t commit hate crimes, they throw temper tantrums.

But New York City is going to try to stick a hate crime on a little kid from Staten Island…

If you live in New York, you have no doubt been following the story of Osman Daramy. All accounts suggest that he is a little punk who has been terrorizing a Muslim girl at his school. Two months ago, he allegedly beat up his Muslim schoolmate and tried to rip her hijab off her head. And apparently that wasn’t the first time this kid menaced this innocent girl.

Osman Daramy

To be clear, this kid appears to be a little asshole. The New York Post reports:

Pipsqueak punk Osman Daramy was all obnoxious smiles and obscene gestures yesterday as he was hauled into court on hate-crime charges for allegedly assaulting and trying to rip off the religious headdress of a female Muslim classmate.

The 11-year-old Osman — whose own mother is a Muslim — had taunted the 13-year-old girl during one assault, saying, “Aren’t you the Muslim girl we beat up? We’ll beat you up again,” a prosecutor alleged yesterday.

“It was not one incident. It was a continued course of behavior,” Assistant District Attorney Teresa Wilson told a Staten Island Family Court judge a day after Osman’s arrest.

Okay, fine. Put him juvie. Throw his punk ass in a dorm with some 16-year-old, Nation-of-Islam little brothers, and see if he learns a little tolerance. I’m all for severely punishing this kind of young punk.

I just don’t see the hate crime in this. He was picking on the girl because she is Muslim? Or was he picking on this girl because she is a girl? Or was he picking on her because he could? Daramy is black; are we saying that if he had beat the crap out of a little black Baptist girl, his punishment would be lighter? That’s the message we want to send to this troubled 11-year-old boy, who will probably enjoy the hospitality of the New York penal system again at some point in the future?

I just don’t think this kid is old enough to hate anything, at least not with the kind of animus that hate crime legislation is trying to get at. I mean, this kid probably “hates” Muslims about as much as he hates cleaning his room or adult supervision. His problem isn’t the growing racism in his heart, it’s his completely inappropriate and violent outbursts.

Slapping the hate crime designation on this kid devalues the entire concept of hate crimes. It reduces the distinction to something that can apply pretty much any time two people of different races come into conflict. And that’s not right.

If a white guy draped in a confederate flag beats me up, it could be because he took offense to my anti-confederate flag stance, or it could be because his girlfriend wants to have sex with me, or it could be because his girlfriend wants to have sex with a black man and he can’t handle that. Only one of those situations would be properly called a hate crime in my mind (“miscegenation, oh noes”); the other two are just two people getting into a fight.

Look, punish Osman Daramy harshly, but punish him for what he did. That’s bad enough. We have laws to punish kids who terrorize other kids. Use them. Just don’t try to divine what the kid may or may not have been thinking while he committed a violent act. He’s 11; the only thing in his heart is a very strong desire to own a Nintendo 3DS.

Li’l angry bird [New York Post]
Girl attacked for wearing a veil says 11-year-old bullied, beat her for months with another student [New York Daily News]
Sixth Grader Charged with Hate Crime in Recess Scarf Incident [ABA Journal]


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