PHOTO BY: FBI/Justice Department
FBI crime scene tape

Washington, DC – The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s annual Hate Crime Statistics report from the FBI, recently noted a third straight year-to-year rise in the incidents of bias-motivated attacks in the United States. With hate crimes rising by 17% in 2017, there were concerned voices from across the spectrum of civil rights organizations demanding answers.

Calling the report a “call to action,” Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement, “The Department of Justice’s top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes.” “The American people can be assured that this department has already taken significant and aggressive actions against these crimes and that we will vigorously and effectively defend their rights,” he added.

According to the Hate Crime Statistics, 2017 in the report, the most common bias categories in single-bias incidents were race/ethnicity/ancestry (59.6) percent, religion (20.6 percent), and sexual orientation (15.8 percent). In addition to the 7,106 single-bias incidents reported last year, there were also 69 multiple-bias hate crimes reported.

Civil Rights

Civil rights organization, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) said the findings were “shocking” and “requires Congress’s full attention.”

NCAAC tweet on hate crimes

The NAACP, a civil rights organization, founded in 1909 tweeted: “This is shocking & requires Congress’s full attention. Shouldn’t this urgent crisis be subject of first post-recess Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, instead of ramming through more Trump judges? Our lives are at stake.”

“The FBI’s hate crimes data provide further evidence that hate in our region is on the rise,” said Nancy K. Baron-Baer, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director, cautioning that “But we cannot forget that the pain caused by hate crimes is far greater than statistics can measure, and that even one hate crime is too many.”

Calling for more comprehensive hate crime laws and better training of police officials, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the anti-hate organization ADL, founded in 1913 said: “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 the data they receive. We must do more to make sure that cities report credible data.”

Vanita Gupta, president & CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement said, “These numbers are disappointing, but not surprising … The FBI’s hate crimes report is merely the thermometer – telling us that the temperature of hate and intolerance in America is spiking to sweltering levels.”

“The civil rights community denounces these acts of hate and bigotry and calls on our elected and appointed officials to meet a higher standard with those who denounce acts of hate and bigotry in this country,” urged Gupta, who heads the coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations.

Indian Americans Especially Sikhs

Of the reported attacks in 2017, 2,013 were aimed at African Americans and 938 were against Jewish Americans, according to the report. Although the report found the surge especially affected black and Jewish Americans, there was a significant rise in the attacks on people from India especially Sikhs with mistaken identity as Muslims. Also to be noted is the fact that crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs were not counted prior to 2015.

Sophia Qureshi of the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) in a statement said, “The surge in hate crimes against Sikh and Arab Americans, which rose by 243% and 100% respectively since 2016 is particularly disturbing.” “Since November 2016, SAALT’s data on incidents of hate violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab Americans show that over 80% of the documented incidents are motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment,” added Qureshi in the statement.

With approximately 500,000 Sikhs in the US, the Sikh Coalition, a self-proclaimed largest Sikh civil rights organization in the US noted: “In the wake of the 2012 Oak Creek, Wisconsin massacre inside a Sikh Gurdwara (house of worship), the FBI finally agreed to begin tracking anti-Sikh hate crimes in 2015.”

“While everybody should be horrified by these jaw-dropping statistics, these numbers still fail to paint a complete picture of the enormity of the problem,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Amrith Kaur.

The FBI definition of a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

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