Reported hate crimes in America rose 17 percent last year, the third consecutive year that such crimes increased, according to newly released FBI data that showed an even larger increase in anti-Semitic attacks.
Law enforcement agencies reported that 7,175 hate crimes occurred in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016. That increase was fueled in part by more police departments reporting hate crime data to the FBI, but overall there is still a large number of departments that report no hate crimes to the federal database.
The sharp increase in hate crimes in 2017 came even as overall violent crime in America fell slightly, by 0.2 percent, after increases in 2015 and 2016. . . . Of the more than 7,000 incidents reported last year, 2,013 targeted black Americans, while 938 targeted Jewish Americans. Incidents targeting people for their sexual orientation accounted for 1,130 hate crimes, according to the FBI. . . . Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose 37 percent in 2017. Anti-Islamic hate crimes declined 11 percent last year, with 273 such incidents, the data show.
However, it is also the case that not all hate crimes are reported to the FBI. (“Some of last year’s most widely reported hate crime charges — the confessed assailant who said ‘get out of my country’ before killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla; the death of Heather Heyer, allegedly by a white supremacist who ran her over in Charlottesville; and the Portland MAX train stabbings, during which the accused attacker was overheard yelling racist slurs — are not recorded in the FBI report.”) The failure to develop a consistent and reliable reporting system must be rectified.
“Two weeks ago, we witnessed the most deadly anti-Semitic hate crime in American history,” said Anti-Defamation League CEO and National Director Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “Today, we have another FBI study showing a big jump in hate crimes against Americans because of their race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. This report provides further evidence that more must be done to address the divisive climate of hate in America. That begins with leaders from all walks of life and from all sectors of society forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate whenever it occurs.”
Greenblatt admonished authorities to fix the spotty reporting system: “It is incumbent on police departments, mayors, governors, and county officials across the country to tally hate crimes data and report it to the FBI. The FBI can only report what the data they receive. We must do more to make sure that cities report credible data.”
President Trump’s apologists deny any connection whatsoever between Trump’s harangues against the so-called caravan and the Pittsburgh slaughter of 11 Jews, whom the alleged murderer said were trying to bring invaders into the country. However, few Americans who are not die-hard Trump cultists would deny that Trump has normalized racist speech, excused white nationalists, — some “fine” people marched in Charlottesville, he insisted — equated immigrants with criminals, identified as a “nationalist” himself and fanned the white grievance syndrome.
However, it is not only Trump who is responsible. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) refused to pass a resolution condemning Trump’s Charlottesville remarks and has refused to kick Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) out of the caucus even though he met with and embraced the views of Austrian neo-Nazis. Holocaust denier Arthur Jones ran under the GOP banner in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District (he lost, but received 56,000 votes), as did avowed white-supremacist Russell Walker in a race for the North Carolina state House of Representatives. (Walker also lost.) Corey Stewart ran on a race-baiting, anti-immigrant platform in Virginia for the U.S. Senate (again, he lost) and received praise from Trump.
In becoming a nativist party and catering to a segment of the electorate that thinks whites have been persecuted, Republicans have encouraged hate-mongers, anti-Semites and white nationalists to come out in the open. Other factors, including social media, contribute to the problem, but nothing so emboldens racists to express their views in non-peaceful ways than to hear political leaders sound dog whistles — and sometimes bullhorns. The House should hold hearings on the problem, solicit expert advice and — we would hope in conjunction with the Senate — take a zero-tolerance position in their own parties when it comes to noxious bigotry. Republicans’ silence makes them complicit; their unwavering support for Trump makes them morally responsible for the surge in hate crimes.