New data confirms an inevitable and tragic consequence of a nation run by a boisterous bigot for four long years. Not only has the number of hate crimes risen under the Trump regime, but it has reached its highest level in two decades, according to the FBI. In other words, Trump’s steady stream of xenophobic statements and reckless incitements of violence has helped inspire a wave of hate not seen since 9/11 triggered an ugly spike of anti-Muslim hatred.
There were 8,263 hate crimes reported in 2020—8,052 single-bias incidents involving 11,126 victims and 211 multiple-bias incidents involving 346 victims, according to the new data. Not surprisingly, more than half (55.1%) of known offenders were white, more than half (53.1%) of the crimes were for intimidation, and roughly three quarters (74.1%) of the hate crimes against property were acts of “destruction/damage/vandalism” (as opposed to burglary or motor vehicle theft, for example).
As disturbing as this new report is, it’s far from the whole story. In a 2017 special report on hate crime victimization, the DOJ estimated that U.S. residents experienced an average of 250,000 hate crime victimizations per year, reflecting the fact that so many incidents go unreported. These estimates looked at data from 2004-2015, when reported hate crimes were lower than today. Also, countless “bias or hate incidents” that involve “[a]cts of prejudice that are not crimes and do not involve violence, threats, or property damage” (as defined by the DOJ) claim even more victims while eroding our society.
Even seemingly promising signs must be interpreted with caution. According to the data, 13.3% of the reported hate crimes were based on religious bias, with only 3.4% of them occurring in “churches/synagogues/temples/mosques.” While this may suggest that religious-based hate crimes are on the retreat, a new report refutes such a conclusion. According to Axios, “[h]ouses of worship… are experiencing high amounts of vandalism, arson and other property damage” while “2021 is on track to exceed last year’s spike in hate crimes in the U.S., many of them linked to religious bigotry.”
Trump got away with so much because breaking things takes far less time, effort, and coordination than fixing and building things. Quelling the hate that Trump fired up while commanding the bully pulpit can’t happen overnight, but the Biden administration is on it. In May, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law in response to the rise in violence against Asian Americans, which has made reporting all hate crimes easier while focusing greater government resources toward this issue.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced this week that the DOJ has charged more than 17 people with federal hate crimes, has secured several convictions or guilty pleas, and is expediting its review of reported crimes. We’re clearly not yet where we should be on this issue, but thanks in large part to the 2020 election, we’re back on the right path. If you experience or witness a hate crime, learn more about reporting it to the FBI at this link.