For almost the entire year, we have heard mounting anecdotal evidence that an unprecedented wave of bias-motivated harassment, intimidation and violence was engulfing America’s Muslim and other South Asian religious minorities. The hard facts revealed today are worse than we dared to fear. A two-thirds increase in hate crimes against these fellow citizens is as unprecedented as it is unacceptable. The Matthew Shepard Foundation calls on leaders of all faiths, traditions, communities and parties to denounce these despicable crimes and provide the resources and political will to deliver justice and most importantly, prevent this wave from gaining even further strength.
Just as worrisome is the nearly 7 percent increase in reported hate crimes against all minorities in the U.S. in 2015. Given that the post-election spike in reported incidents has now passed 200 cases in just six days, the Foundation is more concerned than ever that the national climate for acceptance of diversity is in its most dangerous state in living memory. We call on all Americans to take personal steps to counter hatred and discrimination in their own daily lives, lest the 2016 hate crime reports render this year’s disturbing numbers tame in comparison.
We are further disappointed that almost 500 fewer local law enforcement jurisdictions participated in this year’s voluntary hate crime reporting system than did one year ago. However, 76 more agencies reported hate crime incidents occurring in their jurisdiction in 2015 versus 2014 – though further analysis is needed to determine if this represents improved reporting, or simply more widespread incidents. Also, several states, including Hawaii, New Mexico and Mississippi, once again failed to submit reports in part or as a whole, leaving millions of Americans without meaningful hate crime data about their own communities.
The United States of America can and must do better in documenting hate crimes as they occur, and more importantly, countering the fear, suspicion and violence that has led to this latest increase in tragic outcomes for our fellow citizens. It is past time to strengthen hate crime reporting across the nation and to better train public safety professionals in responding to, and anticipating and preventing, these outrageous crimes.
We can’t do this work alone. The hate crime forums we lead around the country help educate both the citizens on their rights as well as the law enforcement agencies protecting them. Will you continue supporting the Foundation’s efforts to get this information out to the people needing it the most? If you can, please consider donating today.