The F.B.I. released its 2008 data on hate crimes in the U.S. The figures suggest that American hatred is on the rise, but not my much: only about 2 percent. The highest upticks occurred for hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation (up 11 percent) and religion (up 9 percent).
A few other patterns in the data:
A “victim” could be a person, installation, building, or “society” in general. However, the F.B.I. doesn’t provide a good definition of “society” as victim. Interestingly, only three hate crimes had multiple biases, meaning that the offender was expressly targeting a victim for more than one reason. (You can hear Andy Rooney‘s voice: “Apparently those who commit hate crimes can’t multi-task.”)
Hate crimes seem to go up in the spring and summer months (hibernation?). Hate crimes against whites do occur, though they make up only one-fourth as much as anti-black crimes; the hate crimes against blacks make up nearly three-fourths of all race-based hate crimes. Whites make up about 79 percent of the American population: they commit about 60 percent of all hate crimes. (Six percent of the offenders had “multiple races.”)
The geography of hate crimes varies considerably. Thirty-two percent occurred near homes, 17 percent on highways and streets, 12 percent near schools and colleges, and 4 percent near churches/synagogues/temples. Regionally, it is difficult to make definitive assessments because the number of reporting agencies varies by states. In 2008, there were 2,145 agencies that reported, up from 2,025 the year before. California does a good job of tracking, while Pennsylvania and Georgia are lax. Hard to say whether there is more racism in one place than another, and there is little mentioned about the reasons why reporting (or resources to respond to incidents) might vary.
Indeed, overall, the significant differences in reporting make the F.B.I. report illuminating but limiting. Comparing hate crimes across years would be futile. Nevertheless, the reports are useful as they yield a snapshot portrait of one form of violence at one point in time.
President Obama signed a new law covering hate crimes against those who are attacked for reasons based on gender, gender identity, disability, and sexual orientation. One wishes the law could also have prompted more systematic reporting and data collection.