Column: California takes the lead on hate. That’s a good thing. Someone has to lead.
California, along with Washington, New York, and perhaps a few other states, leads the way, even though the federal government has not joined in.
The most compelling hate crime charges in this country’s modern history have been brought against minorities in Louisiana and Mississippi. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Ku Klux Klan terrorized black communities, resulting in the murders of at least nine civil rights workers and their families. In the 1990s, the Black Panthers terrorized the community with the promise of violence, and there were more than 100 police officers and federal agents killed.
In the first half of the 20th century, lynchings were the standard tool to eliminate African-Americans from the South. In the midcentury, they were the standard tool for eliminating immigrants in the South. In the 1950s and 1960s, Southern politicians lynched African-Americans whom they suspected of being communists. In the decades since, a series of hate crimes have been filed against Muslims, Jews, gays, immigrants, African-Americans, and others, culminating in the deadliest hate crimes in modern history, the 2010 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.
The problem is that hate crimes have become a problem, not a solution.
In California, we are moving ahead on hate crimes legislation but not quite fast enough to catch up with the rest of the nation. Last month, California’s first hate crime bill, which had been stalled for years, was reintroduced by the Assembly, which had previously blocked it.
As always, those who have led this debate in the past are in the minority. In the late 1990s, when California voters defeated a proposed ban on a civil rights law that had gone too far, the Republican governor, Pete Wilson, was one of the few voices of sanity that came forward.
In his State of the State address in 1998, Governor Wilson told the legislature to “refrain from legislating from the bench for the sake of expediency.�