It’s a disturbing trend that has become much too familiar over the past couple years, but you may never know that looking at the statistics.
Just this past Saturday, a stabbing attack during a rabbi’s Hanukkah celebration in New York sent five people to the hospital, with two in critical condition. CNN reported that Grafton Thomas was later arrested in connection to the incident.
Another CNN report from this Sunday contained a daily log showing that Jewish New Yorkers were attacked nearly every day last week, and the incidents are being investigated as possible hate crimes. A 67-year-old man reported last Monday that a group of teenagers attacked his 6-year-old son and another 7-year-old from behind, while a woman was charged with assault as a hate crime after allegedly striking a Jewish woman with her purse.
These shocking acts don’t only occur in New York City, of course. Last year saw the deadliest anti-Semitic hate crime in American history when 11 people were murdered during the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
The Anti-Defamation League said that massacre is a chief reason that hate-crime murders hit a 27-year high last year, as the 24 deaths recorded are the most since the FBI began tracking hate crimes in 1991.
Those may not tell the entire story, either.
While the ADL said there was an overall decrease in hate crimes from 2017 to 2018, it notes that a “serious reporting gap remains.” The ADL said FBI figures are reliant on voluntary reporting, and 110 fewer law enforcement agencies reported numbers to the annual Hate Crime Statistics Act report.
Most surprisingly, the ADL’s November report said at least 85 cities with more than 100,000 residents failed to report data or “affirmatively reported” no hate crimes. Alabama and Wyoming – which have a combined population of nearly 6 million people – did not report a hate crime at all.
“Our nation cannot address crimes that we are not measuring,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said via the report, adding that more training is needed for local law enforcement to accurately report statistics. “ADL is working with our coalition and other civil rights, education, and interfaith partners to make sure cities report credible data.”
Another disturbing report from he ADL revealed that there were nearly 1,900 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2018, with a “dramatic increase in physical assaults” and “a wave of anti-Semitic robocalls [that] targeted Jewish schools, JCCs and synagogues.”
History will likely look back on the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, as a moment when anti-Semitism was ushered back into the mainstream. Most will remember the disturbing images from the rally and the cries of “Jews will not replace us.”
Charlottesville was a symbol of the underreporting of hate crime statistics. The death Heather Heyer, a woman killed when James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into counterprotestors in Charlottesville, was not listed under hate crimes.
“If that’s not a hate crime, what is?” Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, said via a CNN report in August. “It makes you wonder what else has been missed, how many other people have been missed?”
Roy Austin, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, would say in the same CNN report that the current hate crimes reporting system is “largely a waste of time.”
These methods need to become more robust so the nation has a better and more concrete understanding of hate crime statistics and trends. Turning a blind eye will only further enable people who feel empowered by the current resurgence of bigotry.