Eric Blankenstein, head of the supervision, enforcement, and fair lending division at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), wrote for a blog, in 2004, in which he asserted that dehumanizing words against black people (“boy”, the “n-word”) are just words or “mind games”. Such mind games are not hate crimes, he asserted. He continued stating that a hate crime occurs if there is physical injury or damage to property.
This blog came up again in 2018, because of the position that Blankenstein holds at the CFPB. Some staffers there did not appreciate Blankenstein’s musings.
Blankenstein is free to hold any view he likes, but these views are contrary to the position he holds. As a result, all his actions in that office must be scrutinized to ensure their fairness and equitableness. He must not be allowed any discretionary authority, as he has demonstrated antagonism with the idea of the law he is in charge of enforcing.
Specifically, Blankenstein’s view is an apology for white hegemony. This situation of allowing the aggressor to determine how a victim should perceive attacks on their racial characteristics is peculiar to the United States, as the statutes against discrimination do not define racism but rather permit an aggrieved person to sue if a white person prevents them from doing something. However, a critical element in these cases is that the accused are allowed to demand the victim to define racism.
A quote from Reverend Thomas Merton’s book, “Seeds of Destruction” (Letters to a White Liberal), page 19-20, demonstrates the weakness of reliance on a definition from the aggressor:
We have been willing to grant the Negro rights on paper, even in the South. But the laws have been framed in such a way that in every case their execution has depended on the good will of white society, and the white man has not failed, when left to himself, to block, obstruct, or simply forget the necessary action without which the rights of the Negro cannot be enjoyed in fact. Hence, when laws have been passed, then contested, dragged through all of the courts, and finally upheld, the Negro is still in no position to benefit by them without, in each case, entering into further interminable lawsuits every time he wants to exercise a right guaranteed to him by law.
(Note: Emphasis, above (in bold), the blog author’s.)
In contrast, in the United Kingdom, racial abuse is defined in the law and punished with jail. Notably, the perception of the victim of the abuse is the primary factor for the crime.