Hate crimes

State Rep. Weston Newton speaks on the S.C. House floor to state Reps. Beth Bernstein and Wendell Gilliard, leading supporters of the hate crimes bill, moments before the chamber voted to pass it on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

Everybody should thank state Rep. Victor Dabney for showing us exactly why we need a hate crime law.

On Wednesday, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill that increases prison sentences and fines for people convicted of crimes motivated by hate. Reps. Wendell Gilliard and Beth Bernstein had been pushing such legislation for years, seeing as how this is one of three states without such a law.

Backed by the business community, it passed on a strong bipartisan vote. But Dabney, a Republican from Kershaw County, took to Facebook with an unhinged rant about it.

He spouted lies about the racial breakdown of crime statistics, said that “our” way of life — “whiteness and ‘straightness’” — was vilified by the left, and swore he would not bow down.

“I am 63 years old and have spent my entire life watching our society give in to the liberals … and it’s never enough,” Dabney wrote. “Folks, if this bill passes, it will lead to Hate Speech laws and you won’t believe what a nightmare that will be!”

Perhaps he’s worried about someone censoring his own Facebook feed, which is filled with conspiracy theories, right-wing propaganda and posts from QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Anyway, Mr. Courage-of-His-Convictions deleted the post after some lawmakers and the state Democratic Party called for him to be stripped of his committee assignments ... as Greene was in Congress for her support of the Capitol rioters and various other nonsense.

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Gilliard says, yes, Dabney illustrates exactly why such a law was needed.

“It’s the very reason, the essence, the nucleus of why we need a hate crime law,” the Charleston Democrat says. “He has a right of freedom of speech — but we also have a right to freedom of speech. And it’s dangerous when a person in a position of power puts up that kind of stuff, because it can get people killed.”

He's absolutely right. Online craziness and white supremacist blather contributed to Dylann Roof killing nine people at Emanuel AME Church — including Sen. Clementa Pinckney, for whom the legislation is named.

House leadership hasn’t yet said whether Dabney faces any sort of retribution. But Republican Rep. Weston Newton, who supported the legislation, summed up the need for this law nicely on Wednesday.

“Protecting against violent criminal acts motivated by proven hatred is not a liberal or conservative issue,” Newton said. “It is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is not a Black or a White issue, and it is not a gay or a straight issue.”

Exactly. If this legislation ultimately passes the state Senate, you can thank Gilliard, Bernstein, Newton, Democrats and Republicans, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter and the late Rep. Joe Neal (who started this years ago), Charleston businesswoman Anita Zucker, the state Chamber of Commerce, civil rights organizations and the NAACP.

And you can thank Dabney for showing us who he really is, and why this is necessary.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.