The Spectacle Blog

Can Speech Be a Hate Crime?

By on 6.23.11 | 9:48AM

The answer is apparently yes, at least in lefty Boulder, Colorado, where 23-year-old moron Zachrey Harris has been sentenced to 20 days in jail and two years of probation for...wait for it..."using racial slurs" against a Nigerian student and a Saudi student at the University of Colorado.

Let's be very clear here: Harris' language against the two foreign students was reprehensible. According to the Boulder Deputy District Attorney, he called the Nigerian a "monkey" and said "we bought your parents, and we'll buy you."

I think the Nigerian student should beat Harris to a pulp...and then not be arrested or charged with anything, but that hypothetical is for another day.

For now, an American (moron) citizen is going to spend time in jail for "ethnic intimidation" for his ignorant words, spoken (or yelled) while drunk, as many unfortunate statements are.

If Harris had called the Nigerian (or anyone else) any of a range of things which you might find in "Scarface" (or perhaps in the French knight scene in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"), he'd be charged with nothing.

Instead, because the "victim" was black and the comments had to do with his skin color, it's suddenly a crime? No! Not in America! The First Amendment gives people the right to say all sorts of stupid things, and insulting people for any reason whatsoever must be among them (as long as the rhetoric in question is not a direct call to violence.)

John Adams called Alexander Hamilton a "bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar" and somehow escaped prison...or even being accused of a "crime against society" or against all Scotsmen or all peddlers.

The Deputy DA said that "the verdict and the sentence are the community's way of saying such actions are intolerable." But does the community really have the right to call something "intolerable" upon pain of prison and an indelible criminal record just because the oh-so-tolerant residents of Boulder find that insulting people (as long as they're not white or Republican) offends their tender sensibilities? Again, no!

"Hate crimes" are anathema to the foundation of our nation: the idea that all men are created equal. It can't be that insulting a black guy or me (a Jew) or a gay is worse than insulting a straight white Episcopalian. It can't be that insulting someone who is a member of some minority group is a "crime against the entire community." We have rights and boundaries as individuals, not as victim groups.

It's time for someone to stand up for the rights of morons to be morons, as long as they're not committing or calling for violence, and for Americans everywhere to be reminded that there is no right not to be offended. If there's anything truly offensive about Zachrey Harris' case, it's that he's going to jail for his moronitude.

(Note: I do recognize that Harris' punishment may have been more severe because the guy he was with actually assaulted the Nigerian student and hurt him quite badly, but there's nothing in this story that says Harris called on the co-defendant to do such a thing. And if Harris was in no way responsible for the other guy's actions -- and generally you must assume that people are responsible for their own actions -- then his punishment should not be determined by his co-defendant's even worse behavior.)

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