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Hates crimes rise; Blacks are No. 1 target

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Nov 27, 2018 - 9:41:08 PM

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WASHINGTON—Hate crime incidents rose 17 percent in 2017, the third consecutive year of increases, according to FBI Hate Crime Statistics. Blacks, again, top the list as victims of nearly half of all race, ethnicity, ancestry motivated hate crimes.

(l-r) U.S. President Donald Trump, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Arlington, TX Police Chief Will Johnson, Koritha Mitchell, The Ohio State University
‘The level of tribalism that was being fueled by presidential candidates, the acceptance of intolerance that has been condoned by President Trump and many others across the country has simply emboldened individuals to be more open and notorious with their racial hatred.’
—Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP

“The level of tribalism that was being fueled by presidential candidates, the acceptance of intolerance that has been condoned by President Trump and many others across the country has simply emboldened individuals to be more open and notorious with their racial hatred,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, to the media.

“For at least the last 25 years, African Americans have been the most frequent victims of hate crimes, and with the flood of #LivingWhileBlack incidents that occurred this year, we have seen that hate crimes, hate speech and the general culture of intolerance and implicit bias are not exclusive to the extremist communities—they have become an inextricable hazard in the daily lives of Black and Brown Americans,” said the NAACP.

The 2017 data, submitted by 16,149 law enforcement agencies (up from 15,254 agencies in 2016), provided information about the offenses, victims, offenders, and locations of hate crimes. The report was released Nov. 13. However, since the FBI started collecting hate crime data in the early 1990s, Blacks have been the number one target of hate crime in every tally of bias incidents.  

More than half of all of the hate crimes last year focused on a person’s race with 2,012 Blacks targeted. Blacks were only 13 percent of the nation’s population and yet accounted for 28 percent of all hate crime victims. One in five hate crimes focused on a person’s religion, targeting 938 Jewish Americans.  

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 250,000 hate crimes take place each year in the United States, but only two percent are reported to the FBI.

The Hate Crime Statistics Act (1996) requires the U.S. Attorney General to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Compliance with this act has been slow with only 12.6 percent of agencies in the FBI report indicating hate crimes occurred in their jurisdictions in 2017.

Jurisdictions as large as the Miami Metropolitan Police Department reported zero hate crimes and Dallas and Houston reported only two crimes, according to the report.

Will Johnson, chief of police in Arlington, Texas, and a vice president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, believes the diminished reporting comes from a lack of training to identify and report hate crimes.

In 2017, the International Association of Chiefs of Police partnered with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to convene a significant group of law enforcement leaders and civil rights advocates to address this problem. 

The police chiefs association also passed a resolution that encourages law enforcement agencies to collect, analyze and report on hate crimes. It included the following: “RESOLVED, that the IACP encourages law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to work closely with the victims of these crimes, affected communities, core community stakeholders, non-profit advocacy groups, and nongovernmental organizations to combat bias and hate, and strengthen trust with community members.

“Beyond the numbers included in statistics and reports are the real lives of people affected by hate sometimes just for living their daily lives as Blacks. This includes the 911 calls by Whites on ordinary Black people, such as the teen who mowed part of the wrong yard, a family eating at Subway, an 8-year-old girl selling bottled water, a woman using the private pool in her gated community to a trio of filmmakers staying in an Airbnb, to a group of Black women on a golf course. 

“In October, Gregory Bush, a White man, is accused of fatally shooting two Black people at a Kentucky supermarket after he had tried to enter a predominantly Black church before these murders.”

“One of the things that is amazing about Black experiences in America is that the country wants to at once send you very clear messages that you don’t belong,” Koritha Mitchell, an associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, who researches hate crimes and their depiction in literature, told NBC News. “That you should expect and accept some kind of half measure of citizenship and then pretend that the country did not send you that message.”

She added: “There is this constant demand for our silence about what we experience and, failing that, our forgiveness before our loved one’s bodies are in the ground. It’s like a form of national gas lighting.”