As many folks know, inter alia I’m a numbers guy. I figure if I can measure something, I can understand it. In that regard, I got to thinking about “hate crimes”. These are crimes where the motivation is deemed to be hatred of some group. The FBI has statistics on hate crimes against various racial, religious, sexual, and other groups covering the period 1996 – 2016.
I wanted to see two things. First, I wanted to see which groups are experiencing the most hate crimes against them. Second, I wanted to see how the numbers have changed over time.
So I got the FBI information. Of course, you can’t use the raw numbers of hate crimes, because the targeted groups are of different sizes. You have to figure out how many crimes there are per one million people in the target population.
Having done all of the research and number crunching, here’s what I find about hate crimes against races and religions:
There are a number of interesting things about this graph. First, in general, hate crimes have been decreasing. This is in opposition to what most folks, including myself, have believed is happening. I suspect this is because of the 24/7 nature of the news cycle these days. Any hate crime gets lots and lots of press, because the media runs by the motto, “If it bleeds, it leads”, and hate crimes make great clickbait.
This overall decreasing trend is seen in both the total rate of hate crimes (black line w/ black circles) as well as with the data for the individual groups.
Next, over the two decades of record, the most hated group in the US has been the Jews. However, unlike the disturbing increase in anti-Semitism that has been occurring recently in Europe, hate crimes against the US Jewish population have dropped to about a third of the peak that occurred at the end of the 20th century.
The same thing is happening with anti-Black violence. Despite what the media would have us believe, hate crimes against our Black brothers and sisters have been steadily dropping since the FBI started keeping the hate crime statistics in 1996. This is great news.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes show a more complex pattern. Up until the year 2000, they were below the national average rate (black line with black circles). Then in 2001, they jumped way up. After that, they dropped back down in 2002, and have been generally decreasing from there until 2014, followed by slight increases in 2015 and 2016.
Even the FBI acknowledges the reason for the huge 2001 increase in hate crimes against Muslims … the attack on the Twin Towers which left 2,996 dead and over 6,000 wounded. And this pattern continues. In 2010 after the Fort Hood shootings (13 dead, 30 wounded), and again in 2015/2016 after the San Bernadino (14 dead, 22 wounded) and Pulse Nightclub shootings (49 dead, 58 wounded), there have been increases in hate crimes against Muslims.
It is important to note that although the Twin Towers and the other shootings were obviously hate crimes, they don’t show up in the FBI statistics. This is because they are not hate crimes AGAINST a specific group, they are hate crimes BY a specific group, which are not recorded as hate crimes. It is also worth noting that the total number of hate crimes of all kinds against Muslims over the period of record (2,988 in two decades) is less than the number of people who died in the Twin Tower attack.
So while I certainly don’t condone hate crimes against Muslims (or anyone), I can see why anti-Muslim hate crime rates have changed as they have … because people have been understandably both frightened and infuriated by the repeated Muslim attacks on American citizens. Curiously, overall, in this nasty tit-for-tat hate crime cycle, the Muslims have caused hundreds of times more deaths than they have suffered in return, so I’d say that they have very little to complain about in that regard …
Down at the very bottom of the graph, for comparison purposes, I’ve shown anti-White and anti-Catholic hate crimes. These, along with hate crimes against other groups (e.g. Protestants, Asians, Mormons, American Indians) are trivially small compared to the major targets of hate crime shown above.
So, what do the numbers mean for the average citizen? Well, current rates for the three most impacted groups (Jewish, Black, and Muslim Americans) are 50 to 100 per year per million population. This means that in any given year, the odds of someone being the victim of some kind of hate crime are on the order of one in ten thousand to one in twenty thousand … very small.
Overall, I was very encouraged by these results. I had expected hate crimes to be increasing across the board … but in fact, they’re decreasing across the board, with the sad but understandable exception of a recent uptick in anti-Muslim crimes.
Finally, what kinds of crimes, in what numbers, make up the total hate crime panoply? The figure below shows the most recent data, from 2016.
Again, this is encouraging. I’d expected the most common hate crime to be simple assault. But in fact, the most common is intimidation, followed by vandalism. And of all of the hate crimes, murder is the least common. From my perspective, this is more good news. Vandalism and property damage is ugly … but it’s just stuff. And intimidation, although again ugly, is psychological pressure, not physical violence.
Anyhow, that’s what I found in my perambulation of the FBI statistics—in general, we’re treating our neighbors better than at any time in the last two decades, and the majority of hate crimes are misdemeanors, not felonies. Good news for a change.
Here on my small bit of hillside overlooking the forest and the North Pacific ocean, it was a burn day, and I got three of my four piles of various tree limbs, construction waste lumber, logs, trimmings, and leaves burned before the rain set in. Now, it’s past midnight, and there’s a gentle pattering on the roof. I’m warm and dry indoors, my gorgeous ex-fiancee is off in dreamland in the next room, what more could a man want from life?
Be good to your family, be kind to your neighbors, celebrate your wins, America is doing well.
My very best wishes to all,