Since I wrote my last column, I have had a busy week. I began the week with a lecture at Yale Law School, which will soon be aired on CSPAN. That lecture was followed by an exciting exchange with brilliant law students offering insights from both sides of the political spectrum.
Although exciting, I was disappointed with one portion of the exchange, which occurred while a student was questioning my motivation for seeking to abolish speech codes on college campuses. During the exchange, he suggested that I was not concerned about hate crimes like the one involving Matthew Shepard several years ago in Wyoming.
The subject of hate crimes came up again on Thursday shortly after I finished a lecture at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. The context was a radio interview, which was followed by a brief question and answer session with listeners calling in to comment on the interview. One caller made the assertion that conservatives never suffer discrimination on campuses unless they engage in ?hate speech? likely to result in hate crimes against members of marginalized groups. When pressed for an example of such speech, the caller fabricated an example by misquoting a case I reported on a couple of months ago.
During both of those exchanges, I wanted to talk about the actual frequency of ?hate crimes? in our society, touching on crimes motivated by factors such as sexual orientation, religion, and race. I decided to shy away from the topic, largely because of the racial aspect of the argument.
In my experience, quoting statistics about the prevalence of black-on-white crime in America is usually a bad idea after the opposing party has started to levy charges of ?insensitivity.? While it is true that there are about eight black-on-white crimes of violence for every white-on-black crime of violence in America, quoting that statistic rarely motivates people to honestly consider black racism. In fact, if you are white and quote the statistic, you will probably be accused of racism. If you are black and quote the statistic, you will probably be labeled an ?Uncle Tom.?
When I returned home from Washington, I had almost forgotten about ?hate speech? and ?hate crimes.? I was just looking forward to spending a quiet weekend at home with my wife. When I asked her if there was any interesting news while I was out of town, she informed me that on Wednesday the first murder of a UNCW student had occurred on our campus. The student, Jessica Faulkner, had been killed in one of the dormitories.
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