Posted by Jacob Britton on November 18, 2019 in Blog

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report on the subject of hate crimes on November 13, 2019, just one day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) published its annual hate crime statistics for 2018. The Commission’s report, In the Name of Hate: Examining the Federal Government’s Role in Responding to Hate Crime, anticipated the FBI data by noting the steady increase in reported hate crimes since the 2016 presidential campaign. Indeed, although the FBI’s data showed a slight decrease in reported hate crimes overall in 2018, the data also revealed the greatest number of hate crime homicide offenses on record and the most violent hate crime offenses reported since 2001.

With that in mind, a key focus of the commission’s report is the persistence of inaccurate reporting and underreporting in the FBI’s annual hate crime statistics. Multiple factors contribute these issues, and in recent years even high-profile hate crimes have gone unreported. That includes the 2016 murder of Arab American Khalid Jabara in Tulsa, Okla., and the 2017 murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va., both of which were prosecuted as hate crimes but not reported in hate crime statistics.

Improving hate crime reporting and data collection is one of AAI’s top priorities, and the commission drew from AAI’s work on this issue in multiple sections of the report. For example, the commission cited the state-based rating system that AAI developed in the report, Underreported, Under Threat: Hate Crime in the United States and the Targeting of Arab Americans, which provides a detailed comparative analysis of how all fifty states and the District of Columbia respond to hate crime. The report also cites AAI analysis that revealed the omission of high-profile hate crimes from FBI statistics, including the murders of Jabara and Heyer, and echoes AAI’s key recommendations to address the problems of inaccurate reporting and underreporting.

At the end of the three-hundred-page report, the commission recommends that Congress “should pass legislation and provide adequate funding that would incentivize local and state law enforcement to more accurately report hate crimes to the FBI, and promote greater transparency and accountability, which would aid in building community trust.” A bipartisan bill under consideration in Congress called the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act (S. 2043 | H.R. 3545) would do just that.

As AAI Executive Director Maya Berry said after the release of the FBI’s 2018 hate crime data:

“The unrelenting scourge of hate crime requires an improved, more coordinated response from federal, state and local officials. We also need Congress to exercise its oversight and legislative authorities to address the systemic issues that undermine hate crime reporting and data collection in this country, beginning with the passage of the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act.”

 

Jacob Britton is a fall 2019 intern with the Arab American Institute