Attack on Smollett part of rising hate crimes in America

FILE PHOTO – 2017 BET Awards, Los Angeles, California, U.S., 6/25/2017, of Jussie Smollett. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok.

NEW YORK – The horrific racist and homophobic assault on Jussie Smollett, a black, gay actor, in Chicago, has been widely condemned, including by President Trump. But the incident, where two masked men rained blows, poured a chemical substance, probably bleach, and wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck, yelling profanities, and “MAGA country”, during the attack, is part of a trend of growing hate crimes across the United States.

There was a 17 percent increase in hate crimes in 2017 – the third consecutive year such crimes increased, according to the FBI, reported The Washington Post. Of the 7,175 hate crimes reported by United States law enforcement agencies, 2,013 incidents targeted black Americans. A total of 1,130 hate crimes involved people who were targeted based on their sexual orientation.

Now, a new report, released on Thursday, by the Communities Against Hate initiative (CAH), analyzes that more than two-thirds of Americans say that hate incidents have intensified during the past two years.

The report, ‘Hate Magnified: Communities in Crisis’, documents where hate incidents occur, which communities are most likely to experience hate incidents, and what form those incidents most often take.

Hate Magnified authors analyzed results from a Hate Incidence Poll conducted by Washington-based firm Brilliant Corners, in addition to nearly 4,000 incident reports submitted to the CAH online reporting database. It surveyed 800 adults, with samples of 200 African Americans, 200 Hispanic Americans, and 200 Arab American/Middle Eastern Americans.

The report noted that 73 percent of Americans of Middle East or Arab descent experienced hate incidents, with 59 percent of Hispanic Americans and 47 percent of African Americans reporting the same experience. Notably, nearly 40 percent of those perpetrating hate incidents invoked the name of an alt-right hate group, President Trump, or Trump-related rhetoric, according to database submissions.

“The data are clear: hate is pervasive in America,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, on the CAH findings. “While we have made tremendous progress as a nation toward celebrating our diverse communities, the collected data are alarming and underscore there is more to do.”

The findings include: 21.5 percent of hate incidents occurred on the street; 14.55 percent occurring at a business location; and 13 percent in private residences; 84 percent of respondents felt hate incidents were prevalent in the country; 66 percent felt that incidents or expressions of hate are getting worse; and 18 percent of respondents experienced episodes of depression following hate incidents, highlighting the mental wellness implications of a hate-filled climate.

In October 2018, a white supremacist murdered two African Americans at a Kentucky Kroger supermarket after he unsuccessfully attempted to enter an African-American church. Soon thereafter, the tragic shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue represented the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history. The killer’s vicious attack left 11 dead, seven injured, and sent Pittsburgh and the nation reeling, the report noted.

VOA reported there were a total of 905 bias incidents in nine of the 10 largest US cities last year, up 12 percent from 2017, according to data compiled by the Center for Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino.

Hate crime data for Phoenix, the fifth-largest US city, were unavailable, but police departments in nearly 20 other cities reported an overall increase in bias incidents, the report noted.

Among the nation’s largest cities, bias incidents rose 6 percent in New York City, 13 percent in Los Angles, 26 percent in Chicago and a startling 173 percent in Houston, according to the data. Blacks, Jews and gays were the top three targets of hate crimes in Chicago, the data show.

In New York City, home of the largest American Jewish population, more than half of the 361 hate crimes recorded in 2018 targeted Jews, according to city police data. And of the 189 anti-Semitic incidents, 150 involved the displaying of swastikas.

“We’re seeing an unmistakable trend of increases,” Brian Levin, director of the Center for Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, said. Last year’s increase in hate crimes “shows that we’re in a new era that started four or five years ago.”

Despite the overall increase in hate crimes, there was a silver lining in the data. Attacks targeting Muslims in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles fell, VOA reported. According to the FBI, anti-Muslim hate crimes dropped by 13 percent in 2017 after rising sharply over the previous two years.

The vicious attack on Smollett, which California Sen. Kamala Harris described as an “attempted modern-day lynching”, pales in comparison, however, to the case of a landscaper who killed numerous gay men, across the border, in Canada.

Bruce McArthur, who was arrested a year ago and initially charged with sexually abusing and killing six gay men, dismembering them and hiding the pieces in planters on the property of a client who allowed him to store tools there, is now found to have killed some more individuals. Six of his victims were of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent, reported The New York Times.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)



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