For better and for worse, hate crime is in the news. Better, because we're discussing it and considering it. But of course, worse, because it's happening in the first place.
Recently, I read a piece by Cord Jefferson, a popular writer whose 'unofficial beat' - his focus as a writer - is 'the stories, struggles and politics of blacks in America'. Centred around what it's like to write about hate crimes all the time, he explains he's fed up of 'listlessly participating in a carousel ride'. By that he means, an incident happens, people talk and tweet about it and then everything returns to the way it was until the next one strikes. Essentially, he ends up writing the same words over and over, just the names and places have changed.
To me, the poignancy of the piece came in the notion of having to explain to people that killing someone because of the colour of their skin is a bad thing. To make his point, he used this example: 'Imagine an editor asking a writer to passionately articulate why a drunk driver hitting and killing a boy on a bicycle is wrong and sad. That would never happen, because a drunk driver killing a boy on a bike is a self-evident tragedy'.
There are different specifics to each hate crime case but the bottom line is always the same. The progress we've made over the last seventy years shouldn't be a justification. It shouldn't automatically brand these incidences 'part and parcel of life' - just because we've come a long way. We haven't come all the way yet. Ultimately, the root of racism in the 1930s is still the root of racism today. Skin colour, ethnicity. We might have moved on from huge racially-motivated attacks being the norm, but just where have we moved to? A form of racism with subtlety? A 'what can I get away with?' model? There are some authoritarians who are seeing how far they can push under the protection and protocol of their jobs. We've witnessed it, in Eric Garner, in Freddie Gray, in Michael Brown.
Since the Charleston shooting, the public (especially in comment sections on related articles) have been asking, does it matter whether it's a gun crime or a hate crime? Aren't they the same thing? To me, there in that question lies the problem.
It's time for the world to see that racial prejudice isn't just a side note in a gun crime, or any kind of crime. When that happens, incidents will be rare, at best, and the carousel will finally come to a stop.