Posted by Kai Wiggins on November 13, 2017 in Blog

The number of hate crime incidents reported to the FBI increased some 4.6 percent in 2016, this after a 6.8 percent surge in reported incidents the previous year, according to data released on Monday by the FBI in its annual report. Most of that increase occurred between October and December of last year, coinciding with the 2016 presidential election. This fact alone seems to confirm what many civil rights and advocacy groups have signaled in light of their own independent reporting: that perpetrators of hate crime felt emboldened to commit acts of bias and prejudice in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and the subsequent electoral victory of Donald Trump. 

This rise of hate is evident in the increase of attacks against multiple impacted communities, including Arab Americans. In only the second year that law enforcement agencies could report anti-Arab incidents to the FBI, the number of anti-Arab hate crime single-bias incidents rose from 37 in 2015, to 51 in 2016, a 38 percent increase.

Indeed, many of the communities targeted in the 6,121 hate crime incidents reported to the FBI were likewise targeted by President Trump, first in his corrosive campaign rhetoric and now under the injurious policies of his administration.

  • After a 67 percent increase of reported incidents in 2015, anti-Muslim hate crime incidents again rose nearly 20 percent in 2016.
  • Hate crimes targeting members of the LGBTQ community also climbed in 2016, with anti-Transgender hate crime incidents surging some 44 percent.
  • Anti-Hispanic or Latino hate crime incidents saw a reported increase as well, up 15 percent from the previous year.

Among the other reportable bias motivations per the FBI’s national hate crime statistics program, Anti-Black or African American hate crime continues to account for the majority of incidents motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry, and a plurality of all hate crimes reported to the FBI.

Anti-Jewish hate crime, which accounts for the majority of incidents motivated by religion, also increased in 2016. Another notable rise was reported among anti-Multiple Races, Group hate crime incidents, up more than 20 percent from 2015. This category captures hate crimes affecting groups of people in which more than one victim belongs to a different race. Some hate crimes motivated by white supremacy would fall into this category, as a perpetrator may commit an offense against multiple victims whose respective racial identities do not reflect their own. We should also note that per capita, hate crimes targeting American Indians and Alaska Natives were the most prevalent among all reportable bias-motivation categories. 

While the reported increase of hate crime incidents across the country is no doubt alarming, we remain concerned over the issue of underreporting. A majority of hate crimes go unreported to law enforcement. Furthermore, a significant number of hate crimes reported to the police—even those which are successfully prosecuted—do not find their way into annual publications like this most recent FBI report. For example, of the nine hate crime murder offenses reported in 2016, the report indicates that zero were committed because of anti-Transgender bias. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), at least 23 transgender people were killed in the United States last year. Most of the reported victims were transgender women of color, and a number of the cases involved clear anti-Transgender bias.

Another glaring omission from the FBI’s 2016 hate crime data is the murder of Khalid Jabara, an Arab American who was killed outside of his home in Tulsa, OK on August 12, 2016. The perpetrator, Jabara’s next-door neighbor, was charged with a hate crime for exhibiting clear and persistent anti-Arab bias in the years leading up to and in the moments directly surrounding the attack.

Omissions such as these, in addition to the fact that in 2016, a majority of law enforcement agencies either reported zero incidents or did not even participate in the national hate crime statistics program, underscore the need for comprehensive hate crime reporting and data collection reform. 

This past September, the Arab American Institute signed onto a coalition letter expressing the need for such reform. The letter was signed by more than 80 organizations and sent to Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore, the interim chief for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

On Monday, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) renewed his call for the passage of The NO HATE Act. The proposed legislation would “improve reporting and expand assistance and resources for victims of hate crime.”

We commend these efforts to improve our county’s response to hate crime, and we implore lawmakers at the local, state, and federal level to support the work of their constituents and colleagues to ensure a better, safer future for all.