The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Anti-Black Hate Crimes Rise, Data Remains Flawed

By Heidi Beirich on November 24, 2009 - 1:02 pm, Posted in Hate Crime

The FBI yesterday released its 2008 Hate Crime Statistics report. Overall, the numbers were up slightly, by 2 percent. One of the biggest jumps was in the number of anti-black hate crimes, which went up from 2,658 in 2007 to 2,876 in 2008. That constitutes a rise of nearly 8 percent.

The jump in anti-black hate crimes is likely related to the November 2008 election of President Obama. In the weeks before and after the election, dozens of hate crimes occurred across the country, the result of a racist backlash to the election of America’s first African-American president.

Hate incidents related to the election occurred in all parts of the country. An interracial couple in Apolacan Township, Pa., who supported Obama, found the remains of a burnt cross in their garden. In Madison County, Idaho, elementary school children allegedly chanted “assassinate Obama” on a school bus. In Mount Desert Island, Maine, black effigies were reportedly hung from nooses.

Many of the election-related hate crimes were violent. For example, there were five reported attacks by white supremacists on blacks and Latinos in California’s San Jacinto Valley that police described as a reaction to the election. And on Staten Island, two 18-year-olds were among a group of men who yelled “Obama” as they assaulted a black teenager with a baseball bat just hours after Obama clinched the presidency.

One of the most widely publicized incidents involved the burning of a black church, the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, just a few hours after Obama’s win was confirmed. At the time of the burning, federal investigators called the act a probable hate crime.

But like so many hate crimes each year, the church burning never made it into the FBI’s statistics. Even though the DOJ released a statement about arrests in the Springfield case and condemned the acts as motivated by “racism,” the city of Springfield reported no hate crimes in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Unfortunately, it is not surprising that a hate crime would fail to make it into the FBI’s data. The DOJ itself has found that the hate crimes statistics drastically underreport the number of such crimes each year. A definitive 2005 study by the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, based on detailed and highly accurate National Crime Victimization Surveys, found that the real level of hate crime in America was about 191,000 incidents per year — in other words, about 20 to 30 times higher than the numbers annually reported by the FBI.

  • Duh

    Hate crimes are a waste of time and money to begin with. News flash, all crime is done in hate. Last time I checked, we are all supposed to be treated equally in the justice system. (aka JUSTICE IS BLIND)

  • Michael

    i don’t know who left the last comment under “Michael”, but that was not me. Anyways, as stated before, the data is so variable, it’s useless.

  • Clark

    This is not fun anymore… this is too complicated.

    I spend all of my time watching the stock market.

    Who in the world has time to run out and burn a cross in somebody’s yard.

    Hell, I don’t even have time to go on dates… maybe someone should give these guys a tube of KY Jelly… I guarantee you it’s more pleasurable.

    The highlight of my day is watching my money make money… it brings a smile to my face “everytime” and allows me to “hold my head up”… and say good morning to people.

    Come on in and play in some of these games that help to enhance your life… not keep you “running and hiding”.

    Also, that was interesting about the chimps eating each other… how primative. Man is landing on the moon… others are still climbing trees.

    Maybe the cage thing is a good idea. If “one” threatens’ the survival and harmony of the group… maybe this is natures way of allowing those chimps to be able to keep that under control.

    So now that we see that is a “natural act” occurring in all of nature… how do we help those cultures that have a heavy incidence of this to advance?

    ANSWER: All prisons should be learning institutions… and you can’t get out, unless you achieve a passing grade.

    AND… those prisons should “NOT” double as mental institutions.

  • Michael

    Someone had mentioned, “that a crime was a crime” and that there was no such thing as a hate crime. I would point out that we as a nation inact laws to address problems and the more serious a problem harsher the penalty. The are laws relating to crimes agianst children even though those crimes might be covered under an exsisting law.

    Victims of hate crimes are selected simply because of their differences and what made them a victim yesterday will make them a victim the following day.

    Hate crimes can affect an entire community and when not acted upon, breed distrust between the affected group and dominant population. Hate crimes tend to be more violent and it’s victims fall into all age and gender ranges.

    I wonder is burning a cross on a lawn only hurts the home owner?

  • joe

    Big error there Clark.
    “You think there might be something in the food? No animal turns on it’s own… “to death”… except the human.”

    That statement is not true at all. Chimps are known to gang up and kill other chimps and then cannibalize them.

    Many male cats will kill other males kittens to move in and produce their own offspring.

    I am sure there are many more examples.

  • GENO

    Micheal, I think you got your quotes mixed up there. I never said that.

  • Clark

    CAN’T YOU SEE!!! Our whole society is sick… just the other day a crowd of Black teenagers beat another black teenager to death.

    Two days later two white guys got into a fight on Thanksgiving… one hit the other in the head with his fist from his blind side so hard it burst a blood vessel in his head, and killed him.

    How can you hate and be so angry at another… that you put everything you got… into ONE PUNCH.

    …or, knock someone unconcious… and take turns stomping him while he’s unconcious.

    You think there might be something in the food? No animal turns on it’s own… “to death”… except the human.

  • Michael

    to GENO:

    “The quality of the data is so variable and in some instances so bad that it makes trend analysis extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible,”

    The FBI does not compare year-to-year trends in hate crimes, saying the number of agencies reporting changes too much. In fact, the bureau cautioned that the increase reported Monday might well be due to more agencies tracking such incidents.

    what more needs to be said?

  • Joe

    The wrangling and hand-wringing here is amusing.

    There is no such thing as a “hate crime.”

    A crime is a crime is a crime, period.

    What motivates it is irrelevant except for proving intent.

  • GENO

    Its no secret that the statistics on hate crimes are indeed misleading. This is due in part of the fact that not every law enforcement agency or police depts. report such bias incidents of hate crimes. Which is then transferred into the FBI’s statistic data collecting on recorded incidents. As one poster noted above, its probably due to the “politically correct” aspects of it. So the reported biased incidents goes merely unreported or sometimes quoted as “isolated” incidents. Which isn’t interpreted as such. So the DOJ’s findings are said true that the numbers of hate crimes is actually higher.

  • Clark

    Here’s some key Character Traits… “bully”…Not intellectual, more “clever” than smart “liar”, has trouble resolving “new” unrehearsed information… in new unfamiliar surroundings and circumstances he’s timid, seeks out support rather than trying to resolve things on his own.

    Sound like a typical “gangster”? Well, you’re right, that’s exactly what he is. He’ll run and try to regroup, unless he has a “clear” advantage. He always seeks out his support group… he’s not an independent thinker… therefore, he’s NOT a “true” leader.

  • Clark

    I’m a driver in Orange County California (a wealthy county)… white drivers tips double that of black drivers… consistently. Sometimes I don’t even get tipped at all.

    I am a Black driver… trust me, discrimination is alive and well.

    But like the guy above me stated “a tawdry attempt to play the “race card” for political favors or legal advantage”

    That’s all it is… an “in group” who uses racism to show and tout their loyalty to the group. Unfortunately these are key decision makers in large corporations.

  • Michael

    I’m would associate the jump with the last election but as a side note many law enforcement agencies are reluctant to charge hate crimes and would rather use other statutes. I’ve seen many stories in the news that describe what could only be a hate crime but both the news service and law enforcement don’t want to say it out loud.

  • James

    Given the gross disproportion of black on white crimes
    it’s a wonder there aren’t more anti-black crimes!

  • Mom of Three

    The FBI purposely excludes the more serious hate crimes that are racially and religiously motivated since more often than not they [the FBI] are the ones guilty of committing the crimes in the first place since they establish the profile protocols. It is for this reason that other civil rights/civil liberties groups have to collect and report on data themselves; not surpisingly these other groups have more comprehensive reports that always far outnumber the reported cases as identified by the FBI.

  • Moore Girl

    Even up here in an AA mtg. today the Blk/White Hate continues……………..I have been around for awhile 1944
    Daddy said this would happen just like 1964 JFK.

  • Allen

    daemonesslisa – I had a good laugh at your “anti-white crime” whining comment. They really don’t know how stupid they look when they do that.

    I’ve been saying (because, even though I classify myself as American Indian (one-drop rule) I look like a white guy) how ashamed I am when I hear a white guy whine about “anti-white” prejudice. You’ve given me an alternative to hanging my head in shame. Just make fun of them and how babyish they look when they do this.

  • Hah

    just more of the usual reverse-racist whinings.

    Tell me, why is a blatantly anti-white racist site like:
    not mentioned anywhere on your site? It’s because you are reverse-racists, of course. You people have zero credibility. No wonder you censor out any opposing viewpoints.

  • beholder

    I agree with most of the comments here, but think we are missing the point.

    The real issue with regard to the tracking of hate crimes is to illustrate the problem. This is necessary because there are those who claim every hate crime is nothing more than a tawdry attempt to play the “race card” for political favors or legal advantage.

    I think, objectively, some allegations of hate fall into such a grey area that it would be difficult if not impossible to prove. If someone is shooting up your home it’s pretty clear there is hate there, or at least total disregard for your humanity, regardless of race. These diverse questions of conscience cannot be adequately regulated, and attempting to decipher racial motive in complex crimes (sometimes where the victim has questionable character) is sometimes a slippery slope.

    But I think we can look at these indicators and ask ourselves, are we or are we not seeing hate crimes continue to occur in America. Whether or not the rise is due to enhanced tracking in some jurisdictions, or because of opposition to Obama, we can verify readily that there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

    That to me is the real issue. As hard as we try to get the message out and to mobilize society around this issue, there always will be someone who brushes it aside as some “far left” invention. Whether or not the numbers are going up because more law enforcement agencies are keeping track is a minor issue. The real issue is making sure we have a transparent, credible, and consistent method of keeping tabs on hate. Nothing else will convince the naysayers, and getting into the debate over the motive for the rise in crimes is a distraction from the core message: even one hate crime is too many.

    This is something that gets overlooked in the minutae of the debate over each and every hate crime. People don’t need much reason to close their minds. If there is a segment of the population who believes racism is a thing of the past, and who insist that each and every claim is a “race card” play, the fact that we have any consistent FBI data to refer to at all is incredibly important to our efforts.

    Thus the key takeaway, for me at least, whether or not hate crimes are on the rise, and for whatsoever reason, the essential fact is that they are clearly not going away.

    We also need to focus on why that is, but that debate seems to overshadow the fact that hate crimes are occurring at all. When we get caught up in the abstract rationale for hate, it makes it easier for people who don’t care about the issue to “poison the well” and discredit every effort to stop these crimes.

    Getting the right wing to admit this is an issue of grave social concern is the critical thing. Only once they recognize the problem and cease opposing every effort to achieve racial justice in America, can we actually make any headway toward solving the problem.

  • Michael

    Brian Levin, director for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, warned that the national numbers may be misleading because some states — like California, New Jersey, and Ohio — are good at reporting hate crimes while others — Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi and Pennsylvania — are not.

    “The quality of the data is so variable and in some instances so bad that it makes trend analysis extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible,” said Levin. “Generally, states that have effective data collection also have effective training and procedures to address these crimes.”

    Read more:

    The FBI does not compare year-to-year trends in hate crimes, saying the number of agencies reporting changes too much. In fact, the bureau cautioned that the increase reported Monday might well be due to more agencies tracking such incidents.

    Read more:

    SPLC, keep championing the paranoia of the looming, constantly “on the rise” hate tsunami!

  • daemonesslisa

    Sometimes, I get the feeling that the FBI simply doesn’t care. Much of the time, it’s that they don’t know, but the fact that all of the death threats against President Obama are going ignored is an indication of the former rather than the latter.

    Oh yeah, I forgot something…cue the “what about anti-white crime” whining in 3…2…1…

  • Carter

    The jump could be accounted for by more effective data collection, better reporting, etc. It is also possible that depending on how the Fed collects, it may go by what is prosecuted by the States & different States may have different laws regarding what is prosecutable under it’s statutes.
    Additionally we have the Mexican Mafia controlled gangs in Los Angles targeting blacks within their neighborhoods and that may have hit a high figure for that time period.
    I’m not totally convinced that Obama is a strong factor in the data. It’s possible that many bigots have gotten used to him and he is riding a Centrist agenda. There hasn’t been any gasoline thown on the fire yet.
    Hopefully he can reign in Attorney General Holder as that man doesn’t seem to understand that the President needs 8 years to accomplish what needs. accomplishing…..

  • beholder

    Brilliant post, thanks SPLC! This lends credence to everything I’ve been working on the last year.