Hate crimes on the rise, solidarity falling

By Breanne Williams, Columnist
On November 16, 2016

A sign hanging at the USF vigil in June for victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando. Students gathered in solidarity with the LGBT community after 49 people were killed in the largest mass shooting in American history. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ JACKIE BENITEZ

Monday, the FBI released its annual report on hate crime statistics showing a disturbing increase in crimes across the country in 2015. Nearly every demographic had seen an increase in attacks, yet anti-Muslim crimes rose by 67 percent, from 154 incidents in 2014 to 257 in 2015. 

“This year’s report, which contains data from 14,997 law enforcement agencies, reveals 5,850 criminal incidents and 6,885 related offenses that were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity,” according to the FBI.

These crimes are not just composed of an offender who has a bias. For them to make the list, law enforcement investigators had to reveal evidence that bias motivated the actions. 

Conflicts have obviously been rising for years and it seems hope of reconciliation is low. During the past election, many on both sides referred to the escalating tensions in the nation, casting blame on their opponent and their followers. 

However, hate has permeated our culture for decades and despite our claims of a more inclusive outlook, crimes motivated entirely from bigoted and prejudiced beliefs are increasing by a disturbing amount. 

Sixty-seven percent. 

In one year hate crimes toward Muslims living in a country that claims to be proud of its tolerance and diversity has increased by 67 percent. 

Of the reported victims, 59.2 percent were targeted for their race, 19.7 percent for their religion and 17.7 percent because of their sexual orientation.

People are being attacked because of their appearance, their religion, their gender, their sexual orientation and a bias against disabilities. 

Of reported incidents, 4,482 were classified as crimes against persons. Intimidation accounted for 41.3 percent of those offense, 37.8 percent were simple assault and 19.7 percent were aggravated assault. 

So who’s to blame? 

Those allowing intolerance to build up a well of hate in their heart and then lash out at someone solely because they are different are obviously a large part of the cause for the violence.

However, the blame in no way rests entirely on them.  The report found 31.5 percent of the reported crimes happened in or near their homes. They were attacked in their homes, the one place they should be able to assume they are safe. 

It isn’t a stretch of the imagination to assume those who live near them were aware of what was happening, were aware there was a problem. How many of them tried to stop it? How many stepped in and stood up against such hatred? How many of them even cared?

We cannot accept intolerance as a social norm. This country was founded on the back of immigrants who all united in a desire for freedom from an oppressive government. We’ve been fighting ever since to ensure every person living within our borders have the same rights we’ve worked endlessly for. Or at least, we claim to work for that inclusivity.

Of the 5,493 offenders in the report, 48.9 percent were white. Another 24.3 percent were African-American and the race of 16.2 percent was unknown. Minorities are facing a greater risk in this country and it appears as if the blame is on close-minded white citizens. 

The sad part is, that statistic isn’t even remotely shocking. Movements like Black Lives Matter have brought to light just how aggressively divided our nation is. While African-Americans protested for our government and our justice system to consider their lives as something worth value, white-Americans responded in an uproar demanding the movement be obliterated because “all lives matter” and even going so far as to make their own parodies of the movement in an effort to squash its validity. 

To an extent, they’re right. Black Lives Matter is not a movement that should be sweeping across the nation. It shouldn’t have to be discussed, and if our country treated every citizen equally, it wouldn’t need to be. 

But the reality is, minorities are not considered to be equal by a disturbingly large portion of our nation. Thousands of citizens have been harassed and assaulted because they weren’t what some hate-fueled citizens believe the “perfect American” should be. 

If this toxic atmosphere continues to grow, our country will unravel. We cannot afford to continue to permit this discrimination. If we see injustice in the world, we need to correct it. Otherwise, we are beckoning in a bleak tomorrow. 

 

Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications. 

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