Philadelphia police are searching for a woman who was caught on surveillance camera assaulting a man on a SEPTA bus last month. The incident happened on May 31st on a Route 23 SEPTA bus on the 5700 block of Germantown Avenue. Police say a little before 2:30 p.m., a woman described as black female, 5’5” with a stocky build boarded the bus and right after sitting down, she suddenly got up, approached a man sitting a few rows behind her and began assaulting him. Police say she punched and slapped the victim, causing injuries to his head and face. The woman then exited the bus at the Germantown and Shelten Avenue stop and fled on foot in an unknown direction.
"Suddenly" certainly seems to be an accurate way to describe the nature of this attack, which appeared like it was entirely unprovoked. But let me circle back to my previous question: Does this qualify as a "hate crime"? Personally, I would call this "a criminal assault." Period. The fact that the perpetrator was African American and the victim was white (and, as far as I can tell, the only white person on the bus), shouldn't be legally pertinent. Sure, racism of all stripes sometimes serves as an aggravating or mitigating factor in certain crimes -- and authorities absolutely should explore that angle in establishing a motive to help solve the case, or to determine charges. But I object to a regime under which there are special protected classes of people against whom crimes are deemed to merit more severe punishments. (I'm talking about factors like race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. here -- not age. I assume most people agree that crimes against children are particularly appalling). If citizen X commits a crime against citizen Y, immutable characteristics should not change how either party is treated. Equality under the law is supposedly a bedrock principle of American jurisprudence, yet 'hate crimes' legislation bastardizes that ideal. If, say, first degree murder is committed against a black civil rights leader, a white suburban housewife, or an Asian college student, the convicted murderer's sentence should be exactly the same. I'm genuinely curious to hear how someone could object to that standard.
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