In 2019, reported hate crimes were the highest they’ve been in more than a decade, new stats released by the FBI show.
What is a hate crime?
“It’s different depending on the state. The federal government has their definition and each state really has their own definition,” said Stacey Hervey, Affiliate Criminal Justice Professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“Hate crimes are motivated by stereotypes, biases or prejudices against a certain group of individuals,” said Apryl Alexander, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Denver.
Last year, the U.S. saw the highest number of reported hate crime cases since 2008, as shown by the FBI’s recently released 2019 stats.
“Hate crimes are often fueled by people who feel slighted in some way, that they have some sense of injustice for who they are,” Alexander said.
She explained why people follow through with hate crimes.
“When we’re referring to Mexican people as rapists what does that do to your psyche? Are you internalizing some of that and is that fueling you to commit some sort of hate crime or microaggression.”
These thoughts can lead to words, or even violence. The more you hear them the more they can impact your thoughts.
“We have a current atmosphere right now that those on the fringes, and it doesn't matter what side of the extremist fringe you're on, kind of condones that violence,” Hervey explained. “Social media, because we've been cooped up, definitely has a role in encouraging…giving people the opportunity to find like-minded people who have their same viewpoints.”
Hervey explained that current events, mixed with everyone staying home, and different groups targeting people on social media during the pandemic, are all having a big impact.
“You're seeing these organized hate crime groups grooming these loner type individuals looking for this collective identity. Also what you see with gang membership,” Hervey said. “Social isolation is leading people to find their collective identity or group online.”
Of the 8,302 hate crime offenses reported in 2019, a reported 57.6% stemmed from race, ethnicity, and ancestry bias. The second largest category was motivated by religious bias at 20%, according to FBI data.
“It used to be based on sexual orientation was the largest group for hate crimes, and now it’s really turned to ethnicity and race,” Hervey said.
“It’s affecting communities. What’s happening right now is communities of color being fearful of going out in public knowing these hate crimes are existing,” Alexander said.
While not all hate crimes go reported due to fear, or differing definitions based on jurisdiction, Hervey and Alexander said bystanders can play an important role in awareness.
“People are afraid to get involved because of increased violence in our society. My recommendation for people who witness something is to document it either through their phone or through a written format, and then encourage people to call the police so it can be documented because it is an increased problem today in society,” Hervey said.