Posted on May 16, 2015 in Arab American Institute
Standing against bias
There have been many violent and devastating high-profile hate crimes that garnered national media coverage in recent history – including the murder of nine African American worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the murder of Arab American Khalid Jabara on the front porch of his Tulsa, Oklahoma home. The most recent data shows an overall increase in hate crimes, a 6.8% increase from 2014 to 2015. Anti-Muslim hate crimes saw the sharpest increase of 67% from 2014 to 2015.
A hate crime is a criminal offense against a person or property that is motivated by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. A hate crime law is a law that imposes a tougher penalty on criminals that target their victims based on the aforementioned biases.
The federal government does not impose mandatory reporting of hate crime statistics, leading to many jurisdictions failing to report hate crimes at all. This leads to the significant and consequential underreporting of incidents. A report from the Department of Justice cited that nearly two-thirds of all hate crimes go unreported. Despite significant underreporting, the data provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation still shows a significant upward trend in the frequency of hate crimes.
While there are federal hate crime laws, and the Department of Justice has enforcement authority – it remains limited and leaves significant opportunity for local action. Local hate crime protection is three-fold: (1) Individual state legislatures should pass their own hate crime laws that protect the diverse communities in their state, (2) local law enforcement agencies should be better prepared to investigate incidents as hate crimes, and (3) state attorneys must prosecute these crimes as a hate crime when appropriate.
Here are THREE LOCAL ACTIONS we are leading to combat hate crimes:
STAND AGAINST THE RISE OF BIAS-MOTIVATED CRIMES & FOR STRONGER HATE CRIMES LAWS IN EVERY STATE
Target: State Legislators
Organize: Organize phone calls, letter campaigns, and in-person meetings with your State Legislators to discuss how to improve your state’s hate crime law.
(1) Strengthen state hate crime laws. A strong hate crime law includes a penalty enhancement for bias-motivated crimes that target an individual based on their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Many states either do not have hate crime law or have a law that does not protect all of these classes.
(2) Mandate that hate crimes are tracked and reported. By mandating reporting, the federal hate crimes data will be improved, and we can better understand and address the trend of increased hate crimes.
(3) Require law enforcement officers be trained on instances of hate. It is critical that police officers know how to identify, respond to, and investigate incidents of hate.
ADVOCATE AGAINST THE FEAR THAT BREEDS HATE CRIMES & FOR THE IMPROVED ENFORCEMENT OF HATE CRIME LAWS
Target: Federal and States Attorneys
Organize: Organize meetings with several local Arab American leaders and the Federal and State Attorneys in your jurisdiction.
(1) Share personal accounts of the impact of hate crimes on front-line impacted communities like Arab Americans. It is important to give a voice and a face to how hate crimes impact you, your family, your friends, your community, and the nation.
(2) Ask for clarity and conversation about how the legal requirements for charging an act as a hate crime are applied. Not every crime that appears to constitute a biased-motivated crime is charged as a hate crime. It is important to advocate for hate crimes charges and also listen to how and why charges are brought forward.
(3) Always reiterate the importance of prosecuting a hate crime as such.
STAND AGAINST BIASED POLICE TRAININGS & FOR CULTURALLY SENSITIVE TRAINING MATERIALS
Target: State Attorneys and Local Law Enforcement
Organize: Meetings with your State Attorney to discuss the importance of culturally-accurate and sensitive training materials.
(1) In coordination with AAI, request and review the training materials officers have for identifying instances of hate, hate crimes, and any cultural- awareness trainings.
(2) With AAI, provide your feedback to ensure they are up to nationally accepted standards.