...rather than focus on introducing hate crimes legislation, it might be more effective to use existing domestic anti-terrorism laws to prosecute crimes specifically aimed at oppressing minority groups. The code of Federal Regulations defines "terrorism" as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives" (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85(l) ). Prosecuting hate crimes as terrorist attacks would have several key advantages.
I've never been a big supporter of penalty enhancers for "hate crimes." Today, I would almost say that adding an extra penalty onto crimes directed against minorities based on mental state or intent borders on violating equal protection. I understand that the targeting entailed in "hate crimes" seems more heinous in some intangible way - and actually mirrors the animus and discriminatory purpose equal protection is designed to remedy (but that's, under the 14th Amendment, when a law or its legislative motive discriminates).
But we should also ask - are some crime victims more equal than others? Using a race or gender classification, among other possible classifications, to give a greater legal remedy for members of those groups than for "majority white" victims - even if the crime is exactly the same result-wise in ultimate severity - seems unfair. One individual victim is, in a way, getting "more justice" because she's female or because she's black.
What's more, the suggestion above would eschew the democratic process - where it seems passage of additional hate crimes legislation is stymied by popular reluctance - and force the change through an overbroad reading of terrorism statutes. That would be unfortunate. It's a major sign of weakness of the underlying concept, seemingly an admission that the idea of hate crime law can't stand on its own two feet in a vigorous debate.