Hate Crimes Reach Record High in More Than a Decade

Bias-related incidents increased by 2.7% in 2019, according to new data from the FBI

Hate crimes in the US reached a 10-year high in 2019, according to the FBI’s annual Hate Crimes Statistics report released on Monday.

Hate crimes are criminal offenses motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability.

The new report revealed that there were approximately 7,314 bias-related incidents reported last year, up from 7,120 in 2018.

The report also found that at least 51 people were killed in hate crimes in 2019, more than double the year before. This number includes the 23 people who were killed in the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas last August.

“The FBI’s report is another reminder that we have much work to do to address hate in America,” Margaret Huang, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), said in a statement. “Each of these incidents represents the targeting of an individual or community for violence or vandalism because of their identity or personal characteristics.”

Breaking down the percentage of reported hate crimes motivated by different types of bias, the report found that 57.6% of incidents were motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry bias, 19.9% were motivated by religious bias, 16.8% were motivated by sexual orientation bias, 2.7% were motivated by gender identity bias, 2% were motivated by disability bias, and 0.9% were motivated by gender bias.

More specifically, anti-Hispanic hate crimes increased by 9%, anti-Jewish incidents grew by 14%, and anti-transgender hate crimes rose by19%.

Bias against African Americans was the largest category of hate crime incidents in 2019 by far. A total of 48.4% of all reported incidents were motivated by anti-Black bias.

Meanwhile, around 52.5% of known offenders were white.

This new data coincides with research from the SPLC, which found that the number of white nationalist hate groups increased by 55% between 2017 and 2019.

Just last month, the Department of Homeland Security declared white supremacists the deadliest domestic terror threat to the US, calling last year the “most lethal year for domestic violent extremism in the United States since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.”

The SPLC and other groups have attributed the recent spike in hate crimes to President Donald Trump’s racist and divisive rhetoric, noting that his words have even influenced specific attacks and incidents.

Since Trump took office in 2016, hate crimes have surged by nearly 20%.

“Politics plays a role,” Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino told the New York Times.

“The president’s rhetoric has been identified in a series of actual attacks, but moreover the day-by-day ticks of FBI hate crimes shows there are increases after sustained and fervent remarks by the president that enter into an online feedback loop that also ends up in other discourses, both at the water cooler and on television.”

This documented spike in hate crimes does not capture the full picture, however. Collecting hate crime data is a highly flawed system. Bias-related incidents are widely underreported, and when they are reported, it is up to local law enforcement agencies to classify them as such and report them to the FBI.

Only 2,172 out of 15,000 participating law enforcement agencies reported hate crime incidents and murders to the FBI in 2019.

While the the exact figure is unclear, experts and advocacy groups alike agree that the number of overall hate crimes committed last year is probably much higher than the more than 7,000 incidents reported to the FBI. This data is just the tip of the iceberg.

Freelance writer covering culture, politics, and LGBTQ+ rights. catherineann.caruso@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store