Hate Thy Neighbor

Hate crime in NYC

Last week I wrote about hate crimes based on race. This week I was going to look at sex and religion, but there’s too much to be said on each topic, so I’ll stick to religion. (I know you’re eager to get to sex, but that will have to wait until next week.)

The Hate Crimes Statistics Act was passed in 1990, after the torture-murder of gay student Matthew Shephard. The FBI was ordered to gather those statistics. Their reports are available on line, starting in 1996.

A reminder: the FBI is a questionable source. First, many hate crimes are not reported by survivors because they fear surveillance, fear deportation if they are undocumented, or are in the closet with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity. Second, many local authorities don’t document hate crimes and/or don’t submit reports to the FBI. And third, the FBI has a bad track record with respect to targeting peaceful protesters, from the time of J. Edgar Hoover’s “Red Scare” (1919-1920) to the persecution of Martin Luther King Jr., to the recent surveillance of mosques and Black Lives Matter. The FBI has also sent agents provocateurs to entrap people into crimes they had no capacity to commit by themselves. (I posted about this on August 23, 2015.

Nonetheless, as dubious as these numbers may be, they are all we have and they do indicate trends. Below are recent FBI statistics for religion, comparing reports from 2016 and 2017 (2018 figures are not yet available):

Reported hate crimes                          2016                2017                change
Total                                                    6,121               7,175               +17%
Based on religion                                1,273               1,564               +23%
            Anti-Jewish                                684                  976               +43%
            Anti-Muslim                               307                  273               –12%
            Anti-all other religions               282                  315               +12%

I looked at all the other dates as well. The overwhelming majority of hate crimes based on religion, year after year, were against Jews. Just like the majority of those based on race were against Blacks. Anti-Semitism and racism have always been a thick poison flowing through the veins of our society. And, of course, through the European societies that colonized America.

New York City, with its high Jewish population, saw a 22% increase of anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2018 (per the NYPD—the FBI figures aren’t available yet). Attacks targeting blacks, white, Asians, and gays also went up, but those categories combined still included fewer crimes than those against Jews. 

Muslims weren’t even on the hate-radar of most local bigots until the 2001 attacks by Islamic extremists. Annual incidents ranged from a low of 21 to a high of 32. In 2001, they peaked at 481, and then fell to the 100-150 range—until the Trump campaign drove them up again. IMO, the decrease from 2016 to 2017 may be an anomaly. We’ll see what happens when the 2018 statistics are published.

An important trend to note: the number of hate crimes, in all but one category, dropped during the Obama years and has risen significantly under the Trump administration. Is anyone surprised?

2 Responses to Hate Thy Neighbor

  1. Martha Shelley February 3, 2019 at 10:40 pm #

    A friend asked me how we can call attention to the predominance of antisemitism, especially to those people who think the most significant religion-based hate crimes are against Muslims. I don’t have an answer. Antisemitism is pervasive in this culture and goes back at least to medieval times, if not further. There are other issues as well:

    1) Muslims can say, and I think they are right about this, that FBI numbers are questionable. Also, Muslims have been targeted by the FBI in recent years and are likely to be reluctant about reporting such crimes. One such incident happened here in Portland, when an immigrant Muslim father called the FBI to report that radical Islamists were propagandizing his teenage son. Instead of going after the Islamists, the FBI sent an agent provocateur to entrap the boy and he is now in prison for 30 years. I had a lengthy conversation with an FBI analyst afterward–he is a father and was pretty upset about the case. He said they had essentially sacrificed the kid’s life in order to convince the nation that there is an FBI agent hiding behind every mailbox, and you better watch your step.

    2) I don’t know that Jews are afraid to report such crimes in the U.S. Maybe we are living in a fool’s paradise, thinking that here we are safe from government antisemitism.

    2) A lot of the anti-Muslim hatred is directed against people in other countries, i.e., the ones we’ve attacked and occupied. And the ones we haven’t occupied at the moment, but are considering attacking, like Iran.

    3) Many of the Muslims in this country are black. A hate crime against one of them might be listed as race-based rather than religion-based.

    This is not to say that the actual number of hate crimes against Muslims are equal to those against Jews. In spite of my concerns with the statistics that we have, I do believe that Jews are targeted considerably more often. I wish someone would do real research on the issue–someone who has the funds and credentials to do it right. And who isn’t already hopelessly partisan on one side or the other.

  2. Barbara Maggiani February 6, 2019 at 6:56 am #

    Quick note to let you know, I’ve read this blog piece. I have lots of thoughts but not much time. Did you see that report from the LA Times last week about increase in hate crimes? I didn’t read or save it (which I usually do). I think it was specific to CA.
    My hugs to you and Sylvia, hoping I get to see you both in June.

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