Bubba Wallace, a an African-American NASCAR driver, was told by NASCAR officials that a noose had been found in his garage before a race at Talladega Speedway in Lincoln, Alabama.
Wallace had supported the Black Lives Matter movement and played an important role in persuading NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag from its races.
However, after further investigations by the FBI and NASCAR, it was concluded that the alleged noose had been a garage loop knot tied to facilitate the opening of the garage door. The knot in question was revealed to have been in place in the garage since 2019.
Following the release of new information, Wallace agrees that he had not been the target of a hate crime, as he explained on Twitter:
“I want to thank my team, NASCAR, and the FBI for acting swiftly and treating this as a real threat,” Wallace wrote. “I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been. Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday, and the progress we’ve made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all.”
What Is a Hate Crime?
Had the noose been intentionally left for Wallace to find, would the incident have qualified as a hate crime? To answer this question, let’s take a closer look at the definition of a hate crime:
A hate crime is a type of offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by a bias against a race, color, religion, national origin, or a bias against an actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.
Under federal law, hate crime penalties can include huge fines and up to 10 years in prison. In crimes involving death, kidnapping, or aggravated sexual abuse, the penalty extend to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
To constitute a hate crime, an actual offense that is illegal under the law — such as murder, arson, or vandalism — must have been committed. In most situations, simply feeling or verbally expressing a bias towards a specific group is not a crime.
When motivated by bias, name-calling, insults, or the distribution of hate materials may be considered hate incidents, but are typically legally protected by the Constitutional right to free speech.
However, when an action or speech threatens someone or their property, it may be elevated from a hate incident to a hate crime.
The Noose Hate Crime
Under this definition, you might not think that hanging a noose would be considered a hate crime. After all, the mere act of tying a knot isn’t a crime, right?
But the Noose Hate Crime Act of 2011 amends the federal criminal code to make it unlawful to display a noose in public with the intent to harass or intimidate a victim because of their race,
religion, or national origin. The penalty for committing a Noose Hate Crime is a fine and a prison term of up to two years.
Under this amendment, Bubba Wallace may have indeed been the victim of a hate crime had the noose been intentionally left for him with the intent to harass or intimidate him because of his race.
However, further investigation revealed this was not the case and no hate crime had been committed since the rope had been fashioned into a noose knot and hung in the garage in 2019. The noose knot had been tied before anyone could have known Wallace would have been assigned that specific garage.