For some, the election of President Barack Obama appeared to put the country on a clear path to closing the book on a long history of inequality in America. Yet violence committed against individuals because of their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation remains a serious problem. Throughout the eight years of Obama’s presidency, the spate of racially-motivated violence and hate crimes against minorities and immigrants continued, and since election day in 2016, we have seen a surge in hate speech, hate rhetoric, and hate incidents against Muslims, Jews, immigrants, refugees, the LGBT community, and people of color.
The FBI’s 2015 reporting on Hate Crimes, reveals 5,850 criminal incidents and 6,885 related offenses that were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity. These data almost certainly understate the true number of hate incidents committed in our nation. Victims may be fearful of authorities and thus may not report these incidents. Some local authorities may not accurately classify these violent incidents as motivated by hate and thus fail to report them to the federal government.
As such, every sector of society has an important role to play in helping to ensure that no person is targeted for violence on the basis of his or her personal characteristics. We must speak out against hate and bigotry when we see it and document incidents of hate whenever they arise.
The toxicity of the 2016 election cycle has made clear that a final victory over prejudice and racial hostility remains elusive. It is time for our nation to redouble its efforts to combat hate in America, and it is past time that we show the world that we can live up to our founding principles of freedom, liberty, and justice for all.
Through the Communities Against Hate Initiative, we will be documenting hate incidents, providing a powerful tool to combat the commission of hate crimes and hate violence in America. We aim to:
- Protect the rights of communities that are most vulnerable;
- Connect victims of hate incidents to services while also protecting their privacy;
- Using data collection of hate incidents as a tool to drive services and policy change, raise awareness, and educate the public on the many manifestations of hate as well as the importance of the interwoven fabric of American society;
- Lift the stories of survivors (as appropriate and with their approval) in order to change the current narrative that is normalizing hate; and
- Support and promote a restorative justice approach to addressing incidents of hate.
List of endorsing partner organizations
The Leadership Conference Education Fund
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Center for Community Change
Color of Change
Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network (GSA Network)
National Council of La Raza
National Network for Arab American Communities
New York City Anti-Violence Project
Transgender Law Center