After the 2016 election, our country witnessed a terrifying and concerning uptick in hate crimes and hate incidents. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported over 1,500 hate incidents in the month directly following the election. In a new project, Slate is also compiling and documenting individual incidents of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigrant sentiment as they are reported. Hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents have long been present in American society, but the correlation between a campaign (and subsequent administration) that has espoused anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, transphobic and misogynist views and an increase in hate crimes must not be ignored.
A few weeks ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the Department of Justice’s Hate Crimes Summit and expressed the DOJ and Trump Administration’s commitment to addressing hate crimes. In his opening remarks to the summit, he promised, “As long as I am Attorney General, the Department of Justice will continue to protect the civil rights of all Americans — and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in our country.” Back in February, President Trump began his address to Congress with a condemnation of hate crimes, the first of its kind from the new president.
These statements, and the Department of Justice’s investigation into a series of murders of transgender women, are an important start to the work that lies ahead in diffusing hate and deterring hate crimes. In just six months, this Administration has enacted policies that directly target Muslim, immigrant, transgender and other marginalized communities. Until the Administration stops instituting policies that further criminalize and dehumanize already-targeted communities, their statements will be nothing more than empty promises. These policies are an endorsement of hate and do not inspire confidence among victims that the administration will follow through on its commitments to address hate crimes. Hate crimes and hate incidents are already underreported. An administration that does not take action to combat hate will directly impact whether or not individuals choose to report hate crimes and incidents.
Truly addressing hate crimes requires more than just promises; it requires signaling, in every aspect of an administration, that bigotry will not be tolerated. As Reform Jews, we must stand against bigotry and policies that serve to divide us. We’re taught, “You must not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16).
The RAC recently joined an effort to promote hate crime reporting. Communities Against Hate is a diverse coalition working together to document incidents of hate and demand action. For resources and to report a hate incident, visit their website.