Hate crime laws have been passed to discourage ethnic (or other forms) intimidation. Thinking ethnic intimidation requires a noose is ignorant. The FBI data is based on real statistics. The FBI and various state legislatures did not consult with me when defining what constitutes a hate crime. The term means what it means. It isn't ambiguous.http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2008/incidents.html
The stats are very clear:
Crimes against persons
Law enforcement reported 5,542 hate crime offenses as crimes against persons. By offense type:
48.8 percent were intimidation.
32.1 percent were simple assault.
18.5 percent were aggravated assault.
0.3 percent consisted of 7 murders and 11 forcible rapes.
0.3 percent involved the offense category other, which is collected only in the National Incident-Based Reporting System. (Based on Table 2.)
Nearly half (48.8%) of the hate crimes involving acts against people didn't involve any violence at all. Violent crimes (felonious) only accounted for 18.8% of hate crimes, a much smaller percentage. Simple assault is usually a misdemeanor, a minor offense. Aggravated assault is usually a felony, a serious offense.
If you factor in hate crimes against property in addition to people, non-violent crimes (ethnic intimidation) against people still make up 29.5% of incidents, again a much larger percentage than violent hate crimes.
Of the 9,168 reported hate crime offenses in 2008:
32.4 percent were destruction/damage/vandalism.
29.5 percent were intimidation.
19.4 percent were simple assault.
11.2 percent were aggravated assault.
7.5 percent were comprised of additional crimes against persons, property, and society. (Based on Table 2.)
Throwing a banana at a white hockey player and a black hockey player mean two totally different things. That is why hate crime laws were passed in some states to provide greater deterrent for crimes involving racial intimidation.
If people think its funny to make racially incendiary jokes its a statement of their ignorance.
It became a legal debate when posters tried to say hate crime was an inappropriate term to describe what happened. What happened is a hate crime in many places because hate crimes overwhelmingly don't involve beatings, murders, or other felonious violent crimes that already carry harsh penalties in most jurisdictions. Anybody that didn't already understand that was mistaken.