Like countless other Americans that night, a group of young Staten Island men gathered on Nov. 4 to watch election results, and then took to the streets when it became clear that the country had elected its first black president.
But, the authorities say, they were not out to celebrate. Armed with a police-style baton and a metal pipe, they attacked a black teenager, pushed another black man, harassed a Hispanic man and, in a finishing flourish, ran over a white man who they thought was black, leaving him in a coma, the authorities said.
Given the racially charged nature of these attacks, I think the argument for hate crimes prosecution is reasonably persuasive. Targeting racial or religious minorities incurs serious psychological harms that may warrant additional punishment. I suppose it’s possible to argue that quantifying psychological or emotional injury is extremely subjective and therefore shouldn’t be parsed in a courtroom, but plaintiffs seek financial redress for emotional damages all the time. So if we’re going to let people to sue for monetary compensation, shouldn’t we implement a similar calculus to punish racially-charged attacks?