Conrad Barrett was arrested Thursday and charged under federal hate crimes law, which defines a hate crime as “motivated by enmity or animus against a protected class.”
The FBI also lists anti-white crimes as hate crimes, but the fact that he was charged for playing the "knockout game" and assaulting a black man has sparked controversy.
The knockout game, in which an assailant tries to knock out a random bystander with a single punch, has garnered national attention in recent months.
It is unclear whether the "game" has become more popular or whether the Internet has simply allowed for isolated incidents to be broadcast more widely.
The majority of the reported knockout game incidents, however, have involved black men targeting white victims and none triggered federal involvement.
The fact that the Justice Department elected to step in now, when a black man was the victim, has critics saying the government is using the hate-crime statute unevenly.
Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York, says:
“The reason why you have black perpetrators and white victims being prosecuted asymmetrically hinges on what evidence there is about why they’re doing what they’re doing."
“If suspects call the victim racial names, and one of the other witnesses testifies to that effect, it would be prosecutable as a hate crime."