The federal agency’s tally of reported hate crimes reached a five-year high in 2016, with a significant bump in the last quarter of the year as Trump was unexpectedly swept into the White House.
The number of hate crimes reported in the United States reached a five-year high in 2016, taking a noticeable uptick toward the end of the year around the time of Donald Trump’s unexpected electoral college victory, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FBI said Monday that law enforcement agencies nationally tallied 6,121 reports of hate crimes last year, up about 5 percent from the 5,818 reported in 2015. However, 88 percent of participating law enforcement agencies reported no hate crimes in their jurisdictions, an ongoing challenge for data collection efforts. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates an annual average of 250,000 incidents of hate crime victimizations in the U.S., about 40 times the number reported by the FBI.
The FBI figures show that 1,747 hate crimes were reported in the last quarter of 2016, a 25.9 percent increase over October through December in 2015. That figure supports a sharp increase in bias incidents reported by journalists and civil rights organizations in the wake of the election. The FBI said about 59 percent of victims were targeted because of their ethnicity, race or ancestry. Another 21 percent were picked out because of their religious affiliation and 16.7 percent based on sexual orientation. The FBI reported 381 anti-Muslim crimes, up more than 20 percent from the 301 reported in 2015. Anti-Jewish crimes increased to 834 reported incidents in 2016, up 16 percent from the previous year.
While difficult to quantify as a trend, many educators note a spike in overtly racist actions by students, fueled by a polarizing presidential administration, divided public and a “meme culture.”
Maryland students using their shirts to spell a racial slur used against black people at a rally. Pennsylvania students posing with swastika-carved pumpkins. A Montana student photographed with a gun accompanied with a racial epithet. Racial incidents are appearing to pop up at an alarming rate in the nation’s public schools, reports the Associated Press. There were roughly 80 incidents in October alone, by one expert’s count. Many educators note a spike anecdotally, and social media can give such incidents wider and faster exposure. But it’s far trickier to assess whether there’s an increase numerically, with no organization or agency consistently tracking the issue over time.
School officials acknowledge the incidents are more visible and brazen, fueled by a polarizing presidential administration, divided public and “meme culture.” A study released last month by UCLA showed a surge in teachers reporting student anxiety, from roughly 7 percent in past years to 51 percent this year. It also showed nearly 28 percent of teachers reporting a spike in students making derogatory remarks about other groups during class discussions. Teaching Tolerance, an anti-hate program, used to get requests from schools once a month for help. But since the election it’s been daily, according to Maureen Costello of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
More than 20 transgender people have been killed in the U.S. in the last three years, but hate crime laws almost never are invoked. Missouri authorities won’t use a hate rime law in the cae this week of a transgender teen who was stabbed in the genitals and had her eyes gouged out.
Each year for the past three years, LGBT advocacy groups have tallied the killings of more than 20 transgender people in the U.S., yet state or federal hate crime laws rarely are used to prosecute the cases, the Associated Press reports. Many LGBT-rights groups are questioning the effectiveness of the laws, saying they sometimes focus too tightly on individual acts without addressing underlying bias or wider violence. The issue was in the news this week as Missouri authorities investigated the killing of a transgender teen who was stabbed in the genitals and had her eyes gouged out.
Investigators insist that Ally Lee Steinfeld’s death was not the result of anti-transgender hate. “You don’t kill someone if you don’t have hate in your heart,” said Texas County, Mo., Sheriff James Sigman. “But no, it’s not a hate crime.” Even if the case fell under Missouri’s hate crime law, it probably would not result in a heavier penalty, because first-degree murder is already punishable by execution or life imprisonment. Missouri is one of 17 states with hate crime laws that cover offenses targeting people on the basis of their gender identity. Steph Perkins of the Missouri LGBT-rights group PROMO and Jason Lamb of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys said they could not recall any crimes against transgender people that were prosecuted as hate crimes in the state. On Wednesday, PROMO and the Anti-Defamation League jointly urged prosecutors to examine the possibility that Steinfeld’s murder was a hate crime.
In most prisons in America, LGBTI inmates face systematic discrimination and cruelty. But the Stafford Creek facility in Washington has implemented model policies that address their special needs.
One day last year, when I was enrolled in a vocational program at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Washington State, a classmate of mine disappeared.
The reason behind his vanishing act was strange and, to me, seemed to be nothing more than prisoner rumor-mongering.
Here’s the story. While working in the kitchen he went outside to dump the trash and then proceeded to climb the security fence that separated the kitchen area from the facility’s industrial complex.
He wasn’t trying to escape—he could only have gone from one part of the compound to another. Instead, it appeared to be an attempt at suicide-by-correctional officer.
Or a loss of sanity.
The rumors of his fence-climbing turned out to be true. When he was released from disciplinary segregation three weeks later, he was allowed to go back to school and he ended up seated next to me in the classroom. I couldn’t help but ask what led him to pull a stunt like that.
Voice tinged with sadness, my classmate quietly revealed to me that he was a “she”—that is, transgender. She had felt alone and depressed, and had long been struggling with her sexual identity.
That was the last thing I expected to hear that morning. But once I heard this, I realized that I understood just where she was coming from—at least with respect to feeling alone and depressed.
I have long known how cruel life can be for gay, bisexual and transgender prisoners.
It can be a miserable existence.
Over the 25 years that I have been confined, the treatment they often receive is amongst the foul things I have had to turn a blind eye to—and it haunts me.
Most prisons are “an all-male world shaped by deprivation” and it can be especially loathsome for a prisoner who is a “gal-boy,” according to prison author Wilbert Rideau. He recounts how such inmates of Louisiana’s Angola prison were often forced to serve as sexual outlets and “sold, traded, used as collateral, gambled off, or given away” by their “owners.”
Victor Hassine, an inmate in Pennsylvania’s Graterford Correctional Institution, recounts in his book, “Life Without Parole: Living in Prison Today,” incidents when (presumably homosexual) staff members in Graterford isolated, overpowered and raped openly gay prisoners; and in other instances, denied “entitlements, such as positive parole reports, until victims agree to have sex.”
Such is life for many gay and gender-nonconforming prisoners in America. It is a portrait of a world of depression.
From an evolutionary standpoint this is understandable.
In his book, “Origin of the Species,” Charles Darwin explains how depression “is well adapted to make a creature guard itself against any great or sudden evil.”
According to the original flyer, the purpose of the group was to foster “a supportive and educational environment” and “provide a safe platform for open dialogue about topics such as Gender Identity, Stigmas, Spirituality, Resources, Self-Acceptance [and] Incarceration.”
This group is now dubbed the “Community,” and one of the ground rules is to “Have Each Other’s Back.”
In the nine months since the Community began to meet regularly there have been noticeable changes throughout the facility.
LGBTI prisoners have been seen to wear pants so tight that—were any other prisoner wearing them—they would be rushed to the clothing room to receive pants that are looser fitting.
The appearance of some prisoners has been altered dramatically by the plucking of eyebrows and application of homemade rouge on cheeks.
Sports bras have been issued and some at times are obviously stuffed with…something.
And correctional officers can be made to perform “modified” pat searches if a prisoner proclaims her gender non-conformity.
Make no mistake about it: This is a social experiment under the auspices of Stafford Creek Superintendent Margaret Gilbert.
While many believe these changes are predicated on the whim of highly-placed sympathizers within the state Department of Corrections (DOC), they’re actually rooted in pre-existing policies and legislative decrees.
Over the years, such dictates have led to accommodations being made for prisoners besides those who are marginalized due to their sexual identity.
For instance, there was a time when African-American hair products were not sold within the DOC system, but the Black Prisoners’ Caucus successfully advocated for Afrocentric conditioners and hair grease.
Non-Christian faiths are given the freedom to practice their religions even when correctional officials have reason to believe the “religion” is simply a front for a security threat group
Muslim prisoners can even be seen every Friday at Stafford Creek wearing religious garb to their prayer service.
Ironically, many of the very prisoners who have the freedom to express their minority cultures and non-conventional religious ideologies are staunchly opposed to LGBTI prisoners having a Community with the stated vision of creating “A Positive, Pro-Social Environment that Nurtures Acceptance, Individuality & Equality.”
Grumbling aside, I seriously doubt that Associate Superintendent Cotton and other administrators at Stafford Creek are simply hell bent on enforcing political correctness. There is actually an argument to be made that such policies and practices further the goal of rehabilitation.
It all comes down to programming.
According to researchers Keith O’Brian and Sarah Lawrence of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, job training, vocation educational programs, and work release “produce modest but statistically significant reductions in recidivism.”
My fence-climbing, transgender classmate’s experience demonstrates quite clearly how prisoners’ desire to take advantage of program opportunities can be inhibited when they feel alone, isolated, and are struggling with their sexual identity in a hyper-masculine subculture that views them contemptuously.
Without such programming (or the ability to do so effectively), there will not be “statistically significant reductions in recidivism” for prisoners who are marginalized due to their sexual identities.
In light of all this, my suggestion to the dissenters inside prison is this: Bite your tongue and consider your acquiescence a fulfillment of your personal obligation to the correctional system.
If you feel differently, go ahead and say or do the wrong thing and I promise that you will feel the full wrath of bureaucracy.
Or maybe not.
Soon there will be a new regime at Stafford Creek when Margaret Gilbert retires on September 15.
In Gilbert’s farewell message she wrote, “Every time you make a decision to do the right thing you’re creating a future. Every time you make a bad decision it affects someone else.”
Only time will tell what the future will bring for LGBTI prisoners at Stafford Creek.
Jeremiah Bourgeois is a regular contributor to TCR, and an inmate in Washington State, where he is currently serving 25 years to life for a crime committed when he was 14. He welcomes comments from readers.
Research groups in the U.S. and Europe now see the white supremacist and jihadi threats as two faces of the same coin, says the New York Times. They’re working on methods to fight both.
Law enforcement officials, technology companies and lawmakers have tried to limit what they call the “radicalization” of young people over the internet. The term has been used to describe young Muslim men who are inspired to take violent action by the online messages of Islamist groups like the Islamic State. It turns out that white supremacists are just as adept at it, the New York Times reports. Where the pre-internet Ku Klux Klan grew from personal connections and word of mouth, today’s white supremacist groups have figured out a way to use the internet to recruit and coordinate among a huge pool of potential racists. That became clear with the riots in Charlottesville, Va., which became a watershed event for internet-addled racists.
“It was very important for them to coordinate and become visible in public space,” said Joan Donovan of Data & Society, an online research institute. “This was an attempt to say, ‘Let’s come out; let’s meet each other. Let’s build camaraderie, and let’s show people who we are.’” Donovan and others who study how the internet shapes extremism said that even though Islamists and white nationalists have different views and motivations, there are broad similarities in how the two operate online. That includes how they spread their message, recruit and organize offline actions. The similarities suggest a kind of blueprint for a response. Efforts that may work for limiting the reach of jihadists may also work for white supremacists, and vice versa. Research groups in the U.S. and Europe now see the white supremacist and jihadi threats as two faces of the same coin. They’re working on methods to fight both, together — and slowly, they have come up with ideas for limiting how these groups recruit new members to their cause. The Times mentions several ways potentially to combat online radicalization.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are forming an advisory committee to focus on better prevention of and response to hate crimes.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are launching a new effort to deal with hate crimes. The groups are forming an advisory committee to “lead a discussion about ways to break down barriers and strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and communities that too often are the targets of hate crimes.” IACP president Donald De Lucca, police chief in Doral, Fl., says the project aims both to prevent and respond effectively to hate crimes.
Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee said, “The tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia serve as a chilling reminder that too many communities are the targets of hate-fueled acts.” The advisory committee will hold its first meeting on Sept. 19. It will focus on incidents that are motivated by actual or perceived race, national origin, religious background, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability of any person.
While there is lots of data collected on hate crimes, it doesn’t shed much light on the volume of violent crime committed by white nationalists or supremacists.
There is little government data on the volume of violent crime committed by white supremacists, says Lawfare.com. Such actions often are dismissed as the workings of so-called lone wolves. Without comprehensive data made available to the public, this characterization is difficult to rebut. Lawfare reviews the available data. The Justice Department’s National Security Division (NSD) offers substantial data on hate crimes, but not all white supremacist violent crimes are charged as hate crimes. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ victimization survey issued a report of hate crime victimization from 2004 to 2015. But this dataset lumps intimidation and vandalism and other miscellaneous crimes together with violent crime and it lacks specificity as to the offender’s ideology. The survey identifies bias using only the general categories of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. It is impossible to accurately identify the white supremacists among the perpetrators.
FBI data comes from law enforcement agencies that report crimes motivated in whole or in part by the offenders’ bias under the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. The FBI uses terms like “Anti-Black,” “Anti-Arab,” “Anti-Jewish,” “Anti-Gay,” “Anti-Female,” and “Anti-Transgender,” but the data don’t tell who the offender favors. Because many white supremacist violent crimes may be prosecuted in state court, states may be best situated to identify the offenders’ ideology properly. New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP) has the most specific government data on the problem to date. The agency’s 2017 Terrorism Threat Assessment reported 22 domestic terrorism attacks in 2016, seven of which were committed by white supremacists nationwide. Several other states, including California and Massachusetts, provide public access data about hate crimes within their boundaries. These datasets, too, suffer a combination of the federal pitfalls: not specifically describing the offender’s ideology and not comparing offender’s ideology and type of crime.
U.S. officials are severely limited in their ability to crack down on domestic extremist groups, even those who spew hate-filled rhetoric, acquire arms and advocate violence.
When an alleged white supremacist rammed a car into a crowd of people in Charlottesville, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and members of Congress from both parties were quick to call it an act of terrorism. Yet law enforcement officials face obstacles to charging James Alex Fields Jr. as a terrorist. The Justice Department’s civil rights division is focused on whether Fields committed a hate crime, Politico reports. Federal officials are severely limited in their ability to crack down on domestic extremist groups, even those who spew hate-filled rhetoric, acquire arms and advocate violence.
Over the past decade, suspects accused of extreme right-wing violence have accounted for far more attacks in the U.S. than those linked to foreign Islamic groups. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security broadly track dozens of neo-Nazi, “sovereign” and other white Christian militant groups. Hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan have many more legal protections that make their members and sympathizers much harder targets. “There have been strong constraints historically on the FBI’s ability to investigate political movements in the United States and to collect intelligence without a clear indication that the commission of a crime is imminent,” said J.M. Berger of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague. “Any change to those restrictions would really be a Pandora’s box.” A crucial issue is “material support,” a legal term that opens the door to federal terrorism charges based on connections to foreign terrorist organizations. Any person who takes tangible action to support a foreign terror group like ISIS can face a material support for terrorism charge. It’s not clear that such charges can be filed when the organization involved is a domestic terrorist or hate group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said there are 917 groups around the U.S., somewhat lower than the 1,018 peak in 2011.
California and Florida are the states with most active hate groups, says a new Southern Poverty Law Center report. California has 79 groups and Florida 63, the Miami Herald reports. The center published a detailed map of the 917 hate groups actively operating across the U.S.
As of last year, there were 130 Ku Klux Klan groups and 193 Black Separatist groups operating nationwide, the center said. The national total of hate groups peaked at 1,018 in 2011. By 2014, that number had fallen to 784. Since then, the groups have been steadily increasing, rising to last year’s 917 figure.
Even after the death of activist Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, legislators in several states defend their proposals to give immunity to drivers who strike protesters. The measures were filed primarily in response to protests by Black Lives Matter and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
After the death of activist Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, state legislators who had previously pushed to shield drivers who killed protesters with a moving vehicle are standing by their efforts, arguing that their legislation would not have applied in last weekend’s attack, The Intercept reports. Before the killing on Saturday, bills had been proposed around the U.S., largely in the South and primarily in response to Black Lives Matter and Dakota Access Pipeline related protests. The bills targeted leftist demonstrators who have increasingly shut down traffic by blocking roads and highways to bring attention to their cause. Under the proposed laws, motorists who struck and killed such protesters would have special immunity in certain circumstances, as long as it wasn’t proved they acted deliberately. Heyer was struck by a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., a supporter of white nationalist causes.
None of the proposed motorist immunity bills — debated in half a dozen states and backed by far-right personalities and law enforcement interests — has been enacted. Rather than backing away in light of the events in Charlottesville, legislators are doubling down. Texas state Rep. Pat Fallon wants to limit the liability of motorists responsible for hitting individuals who are “blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration.” North Carolina’s version of the immunity bill passed the lower chamber of the legislature in April. It says a “person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in a public right-of-way is immune from civil liability for the injury.” The definition of “due care” would be highly debatable. State Reps. Justin Burr and Chris Millis, said their bill would not apply in the context of Charlottesville.