HATE CRIMES REPORT. People hold signs while attending a rally to
support #Stop Asian Hate at the Logan Square Monument in Chicago on
March 20, 2021. A national coalition of civil-rights groups has released
a comprehensive, state-by-state review of hate crime laws in the United
States. Coalition members say the report sets the stage for bolstering
the efficacy of current law and addresses racial disparities in how the
laws are enforced. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V31, #8 (August 2, 2021), page 9.
Report: Hate crime laws lack uniformity across the
By Aaron Morrison
The Associated Pres
NEW YORK — More than half a century since they were modernized, hate
crime laws in the U.S. are inconsistent and provide incomplete methods
for addressing bias-motivated violence, according to a new report by
advocates for better protections.
The report, first shared with The Associated Press ahead of the
release in late July, is a comprehensive national review of hate crime
laws that shows gaps and variances in the laws. Due to the complexity of
hate violence, certain statutes meant to protect racial minorities and
marginalized groups are less effective, as a consequence of bias in the
criminal justice system, the report says.
The existing laws can even discourage hate crime victims from coming
forward, advocates say in the report, which also cites widespread flaws
in the collection and reporting of data.
"We really think this is the first report to bring together a
state-by-state analysis along so many dimensions … with a focus on
racial justice and criminal justice reform," said Naomi Goldberg, LGBTQ
program director for the Movement Advancement Project, which authored
the report in partnership with more than 15 national civil-rights
The coalition of civil rights organizations includes Asian Americans
Advancing Justice - AAJC, the National Center for Transgender Equality,
and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Goldberg described it as an
unprecedented collaboration in the advocacy space.
The report includes a foreword by Judy Shepard, president of the
Matthew Shepard Foundation, named for her son whose murder in 1998 led
to LGBTQ protection in the federal legislation.
"Although we know that hate crime laws are important and have been
successful in holding offenders accountable, we also know that they can
and should be more impactful," Shepard wrote in the foreword.
The report’s release comes after a more-than-yearlong focus on
COVID-era hate violence directed at Asian Americans and Asian
immigrants, and ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror
attacks, which saw an uptick in anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh attacks.
On July 27, a man accused of killing eight people, mostly women of
Asian descent, at Atlanta-area massage businesses this past May pleaded
guilty to murder in four of the killings. The man received a sentence of
life imprisonment. A prosecutor on the case has not linked a hate
motivation to the killings.
The FBI said the U.S. reached a 10-year high in reported hate crimes
in 2019. Earlier this year, the SPLC said the number of active hate
groups in the U.S. declined as far-right extremists migrated further to
online networks that are harder to track.
The majority of all U.S. hate crimes are committed by white people,
according to available data, and the majority of all hate crimes are
motivated by racial or ethnic bias. But data also show that hate crimes
reported by state law enforcement to the FBI disproportionately list
Black Americans as the perpetrators.
According to the report, in at least 13 states, law
enforcement-recorded hate crimes listed Black offenders at a rate
roughly 1.6 to 3.6 times greater than the size of the state’s Black
"These repeated disparities … show that — despite the fact that
people of color are far more likely to be the victims of hate violence —
the instances of hate violence that are actually documented by police …
are disproportionately those alleged to have been committed by Black
people," the report states.
As racist attacks on Asian Americans and Asian immigrants gained
widespread attention in recent months, so did a false perception that
Black Americans were the main culprits of such attacks.
"We don’t have a true and accurate understanding of what anti-Asian
hate during the pandemic has looked like," said Marita Etcubañez, senior
director for strategic initiatives at Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- AAJC in Washington D.C.
"But we do know that these commonly discussed perceptions that the
perpetrators of anti-Asian hate are mainly Black or African American are
not accurate," she said.
Etcubañez added that a lack of accurate hate crime statistics is what
inspired passage of the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act as part of the COVID-19
Hate Crimes Act. Named for Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer, whose
hate-motivated killings were prosecuted as hate crimes but not counted
in hate statistics, the legislation aims to improve hate crime data
collection by law enforcement.
The report on hate crime laws also highlights a growing
politicization of such legislation. Following the rise of the Black
Lives Matter movement and street confrontations between protesters and
police in the last several years, conservative lawmakers in a handful of
states have either changed or attempted to change hate crime laws by
adding police officers as a protected category.
"I think that’s a terrible, terrible approach," said SPLC president
and CEO Margaret Huang.
"Those laws that are trying to include law enforcement in the
category of hate crimes are actually taking away from the definition of
hate crimes and the focus on how we prevent these things," she said.
The nation’s earliest protections against hate-motivated violence
were passed after the Civil War, amid a rise in white supremacist
violence against formerly enslaved Africans. Modernization of federal
hate crime legislation happened in 1968, and has since expanded to 46
states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Arkansas, South
Carolina, and Wyoming are the only states without hate crime statutes.
In the report, advocates say current hate crime laws can be improved
by shifting the focus away from strictly criminal punishment for
violation of the statutes to allowing for remedies in civil court. They
also call for investment in the social safety net to help reduce poverty
and vulnerability caused by systemic racism.
Morrison is a member of AP’s Race and Ethnicity team.
Read the current issue of The Asian Reporter in
Just visit <www.asianreporter.com>!