Hate Crime in America: White Offenders and Racial Bias

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The killing of an Indian Engineer in Kansas City has renewed the debate on hate crime in the USA. Contrary to popular perception, more than 50% of the offenders of Hate Crime in the USA are White.

San Francisco: On Wednesday (22nd February, 2017), two Indian engineers and an American were shot at a bar in Olathe, southwest of Kansas City. The shooter has been identified as 51- year old Adam Purington and the incident is currently being investigated by the FBI as a suspected hate crime. One engineer identified as Srinivas Kuchibhotla was pronounced dead after sustaining bullet injuries and the other two victims are out of danger. Purington has been charged for one account of first-degree murder and two accounts of premeditated attempted murder by the courts.

Hate Crime in America

Adam Purington

What is Hate Crime?

Any crime that were motivated in whole or in part by a bias against the victim’s perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or disability is categorized as hate crime. The FBI publishes an annual report which has data on the number of incidents, offenses, victims, and offenders in reported crimes.

Hate Crime in USA

This incident brings us to a very critical point of understanding hate crime in the United States. Data by the FBI indicates that hate crimes with racial and religious motives have been consistently decreasing in the United States from 2008 to 2014. Considering that data for the year 2016 is unavailable, between 2005 -2015, 2008 reported the highest number of hate crime incidents & offences in the United States with 7883 incidents and 9168 offenses and decreasing thereafter. The new upward trend seems to be beginning in 2015 with more hate crime incidents being reported and coincidentally President Donald Trump began his election campaign in 2015. One has to wait for the 2016 data to understand whether the 2015 increase is just coincidental or not.

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Who committed these Offences?

Like in Adam Purington’s case, White Americans have committed the highest number of hate crimes and not African- Americans as it is portrayed and perceived in popular culture like films, TV and media representation of crime. In 2015 alone, 48.4 % of hate crime offenders were white and 24.3 % were Black or African American. Since 2005, White Americans made up for more than 50% of the hate crime offenders almost every year. The percentage of black offenders of hate crime that was around 20% till 2011 continuously increased to reach around 24% in 2015.

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So, contrary to perception in countries like India, it is the white americans who commit most of these hate crimes and  not the black americans, like they are stereotyped in popular culture and in movies.

What is the motivation behind the attacks?

According to the FBI, the bias or motivation for these hate crimes has steadily remained the same all through the years. The biggest bias or motivation in these hate crimes has been Race/Ethnicity/Ancestry, followed by religion and sexual orientation.

Within racial attacks, the most bias has been reported as anti-African-American, largely perpetuated by white people. Hate crimes with a bias against Asian population including Indians have remained between 2-2.5 % of total crime per every year for all the five years.

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Attacks with sexual orientation motivation have been consistent with the largest bias against the LGBT community.

Among religious attacks, the highest have been with an anti-Jewish sentiment, followed by anti-Islamic/Muslim bias. In what should be considered a red flag, hate crimes with anti-Islamic/Muslim bias soared in 2015 to 301 individual incidents from 178 in 2014 indicating a probable bout of Islamophobia.

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Looking ahead

With America reeling under a new civil rights chaos, the big picture seems to be only getting worse. The President Donald Trump’s election campaign that received support from hate groups like the KKK has led to a situation where minority groups are increasingly living under fear being attacked. The President’s inappropriate comments on Immigrants, Muslims and LGBT have only exacerbated the situation. His first new days in office have been busy with executive orders against these communities and have created an atmosphere of mistrust, hatred and uncertainty towards immigrant & minority populations.

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