A few days ago, I was sitting with a few of my friends when I saw an alert on my phone that a Jewish cemetery in Rochester had been vandalized, the third vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in the span of a few weeks. I was almost brought to tears, and I couldn’t help but say something about it. When I did, my friends asked me if I could stop talking about politics for once.
STOP TALKING ABOUT POLITICS.
I was enraged. Granted, I am often guilty of bringing politics into a conversation, and I understand how that can get annoying. However, I find it disgusting that anyone would refer to the desecration of a cemetery as “politics.” There’s nothing political about it. It is a despicable act of hatred, end of story.
To refer to a hate crime as political is to severely delegitimize the severity of what happened. Political issues, for better or worse, consume a significant portion of our everyday lives. They are, for the most part, mundane and relatively ordinary. Political discussion is commonplace, and it always surrounds us. To call a hate crime “politics” is to describe it as mundane and ordinary, and a world in which hate crimes become ordinary is a world in which I do not want to live.
There is another problem with referring to hate crimes as political issues: political issues have at least two sides that are at least somewhat valid. We can cut or raise government spending. We can privatize or socialize health care. We can accept or not accept refugees. The topic of hate crimes is not an issue with multiple sides. Are hate crimes acceptable? There’s only one answer to that question. Hatred is not a valid opinion.
When we politicize hatred, we empower those who hate. In the 2016 presidential election, we saw a candidate whose offensive rhetoric resonated with those who harbor prejudice. When that candidate won, those people were empowered further. Since his election, the amount of hate crimes in the U.S. increased significantly. This is because the criminals saw a politician to rally behind, and it helped them justify their actions. This is what happens when we reduce hate crimes to politics— we empower racists.