Sunday, November 19, 2017

Richard Cohen: Hate crimes rise for second straight year

  As we feared, the FBI’s hate crime report for 2016 shows a second straight year of increases – the first time that’s happened in a decade. It means that in the last two years, the number of reported hate crimes has risen by nearly 12 percent.

  Government studies show that the actual number of hate crimes may be as high as 250,000 – more than 40 times the 6,121 incidents that the FBI reports for 2016. But the FBI figures do serve as a rough barometer for what’s occurring in our country.

  The significant increase over the last two years coincides with Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic campaign and its immediate aftermath. We reported a surge in hate crimes and other bias-related incidents – many of them carried out in Trump’s name – in the days after the election. The new FBI report confirms our findings, showing a 25 percent rise during the final three months of 2016.

  The FBI report also shows that hate crimes targeting Muslims have doubled in the past two years. This is a group, of course, that was repeatedly demonized by Trump, who during the campaign promised a “complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the country.

  We’ve also documented two straight years of increases in hate groups after several years of declines – including a near-tripling of anti-Muslim hate groups in 2016.

  The words of our political leaders have consequences. President Trump has energized the radical right with his xenophobic rhetoric and has given bigots a license to act on their worst instincts. The most vulnerable people in our country are paying the price.

  About the author: Richard Cohen is president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  This article was published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

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