2020 Saw Highest Number of Hate Crimes in 20 Years: FBI

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Anti-Hate Crime March at the University of Delaware, Photo by Xander Opiyo via Flickr.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) released updated statistics regarding 2020 hate crime occurrences, revealing that a vast majority of victims were targeted because of the offender’s race or ethnicity bias — resulting in the highest number of reported hate crimes in two decades, according to the FBI. 

The FBI previously issued hate crime data in August, but due to an unforeseen error in Ohio’s reporting, the data was incomplete. Now, the FBI corrected the technical problem, allowing us to see the full picture and adding more than 500 crimes to the total data.

One of the main findings of the latest report is that hate crimes against people of Asian descent rose by 76 percent in 2020 — furthering the FBI’s finding that 60 percent of hate crimes were carried out on the basis of an individual’s race. 

See Also: Asian Americans Demand Swifter Justice Under Hate Crimes Law

“Every hate crime is an attack on the community,” Jay Greenberg, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s criminal division, told ABC News’ Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Looking at the new statistics holistically, there were 8,052 single-bias incidents — crimes motivated by one type of bias like racism — involving 11,126 victims. Comparatively, there were 7,103 single-bias incidents involving 8,552 victims in 2019.

More than half of the hate crime offenders were white, and 21 percent of the offenders were African American — and nearly 90 percent of offenders were over the age of 18. 

Moreover, the FBI found that 20 percent of hate crimes targeted a person’s sexual orientation. 

The FBI also uncovered that 13 percent of hate crimes in 2020 were due to religious bias, adding anecdotal evidence to the documented increase of attacks of houses of worship, and attacks against those of religious differences. 

Attacks on Houses of Worship

With the latest FBI statistics illuminating a backdrop of divisiveness in the country, they also show a growing problem of houses of worship across a variety of faiths are experiencing high amounts of vandalism — like arson and other property damage, AXIOS details. 

Set in the context of this year’s 2021 statistics, our country is on track to exceed last year’s notable spike in hate crimes linked to religious bigotry. AXIOS details that the number of hate crimes reported last year was the highest since the wave of Islamophobia in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. 

In New York City specifically, Brian Levin, who directs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino told AXIOS how there were nearly as many anti-Semitic hate crimes during a three-week period in May compared to the entire first quarter of the year. 

That spike in violence correlated with the heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine.

In May, NPR reported about The Anti-Defamation League’s reports that it received nearly 200 reports of in-person violence in one week. The group also said there was violence online, as they found more than 17,000 tweets using a variation of the phrase “Hitler was right” between May 7, and May 14. 

While the FBI report details extensive cases of property damage, like African-American churches being vandalized in retaliation for Black Lives Matter protests, or a Buddhist Temple in California that experienced an arson attack as a result of anti-Asian rhetoric, AXIOS writes that it’s not just property damage that’s impacted lives — it’s gun violence.

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of one of Pennsylvania’s worst mass shootings, when a white supremacist terrorist killed 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. 

Overall, AXIOS writes that advocates are looking to those of authority to do more. 

“The communal institutions which hold us together traditionally — academia, arms of government, the media, the medical establishment, and now religious institutions — are held in low esteem relative to decades prior,” Levin said, as quoted by AXIOS.

“So when there are disputes or questions about authority, and particularly when you have these new conspiracy theories that come up like QAnon, there’s always a place for someone of faith to be scapegoated,” Levin concluded. “We’re extremely concerned.”

The full FBI data can be accessed here. 

Additional Reading: Restorative Justice More Effective than Incarceration in Hate Crimes: Report

Andrea Cipriano is a TCR staff writer.

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