Hate Crime Is Almost Nonexistent

by Josh Gelernter

How racist is America? The numbers speak for themselves.

As you’ve doubtless heard, this year’s Oscars haven’t got any black actor or actress nominees. It’s a big deal in Hollywood, and I’m sure it’ll be a big deal tomorrow evening at the big show, but I don’t find it too scandalous — no one could reasonably expect a 20-nominee sample to be representative either of actors at large or the country. And frankly, I didn’t give it too much thought one way or the other until a statistics-minded friend pointed something out: Over the last 20 years, there have been a total of 80 Oscar winners in the four categories of best leading and best supporting actor and actress. Of those 80 winners, 10 were black — which means that over the last 20 years, black actors have won 12.5 percent of the Oscars for acting. According to the last census, 12.6 percent of the American population is black. So — unintentionally, I assume — the motion-picture academy has actually produced a surprisingly America-representative winners’ circle.

(Though 80 is still too small a sample to read much into.)

This got me thinking: With all the sturm und drang about bigotry in the United States, how bad are things when you look at them from the objective, statistical point of view? Obviously, there’s no way to measure abstract hate, but I figure you can get a decent look at active American hate by using the FBI’s hate-crime statistics; they’re quite broad, and include violent, nonviolent, and property crimes.

According to the data from the most recent available year — 2014 — the most targeted group per capita is Jews. As several NRO writers have already pointed out, a Muslim — notwithstanding the president’s Islamophobia speech — is less than half as likely to suffer a hate crime as a Jew is. And this is not an especially anti-Semitic country. In fact, it’s just the opposite: According to the Anti-Defamation League, the United States is very nearly the least anti-Semitic country in the world. According to the FBI, 1 of every 8,372 Jews suffers a hate crime. Speaking as a Jew myself, I have to say those are admirably good odds.

And though being Jewish is the statistical worst-case scenario, hate-wise, every demographic group endured some bigotry in 2014, including Protestants, Catholics, and atheists; whites, blacks, and Hispanics; gays, straights, and the mentally and physically disabled. All told, 1 in every 47,421 Americans suffered criminal discrimination. Which means that, in 2014, you were more than three times more likely to be admitted to an Ivy League school than you were to suffer a hate crime.

In 2014, you were more than three times more likely to be admitted to an Ivy League school than you were to suffer a hate crime.

More concretely: According to The Economist’s actuarial tables, you were more than 40 times more likely to accidentally kill yourself than you were to suffer a hate crime. Even if — heaven forfend — you’re a Jew, you’re still five times more likely to inadvertently off yourself than you are to experience illegal hate.

And you don’t worry about accidentally killing yourself, do you? Certainly, you shouldn’t: Worrying about accidental death is the road to crippling OCD and agoraphobia. You don’t tell your kid to think about the fact that when he eats dinner, there’s a 1-in-100,000 chance he’ll choke to death, or that when he goes to bed, there’s a 1-in-150,000 chance he’ll fall down the stairs and break his neck. If you did, you’d end up raising a basket case.

Along the same lines, we might all consider making less of a big deal about hypothetical racism, like a year of all-white Oscar nominees. Or a year of all-Christian ones. As a Jew, I realize that there are anti-Semites in the United States — but I realize too that they’re a tiny minority. If I assumed that everyone who wished me Merry Christmas was a Nazi, I’d go crazy. As crazy as if every time I heard someone laugh I assumed he was laughing at me.

I know that, personally, I always prefer not to think people hate me.

I don’t want to sound preachy, but imagine if we presumed everyone to be innocent of racism until proven guilty. What a wonderful, microaggression-free world that would be.

— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard. He is a founder of the tech startup Dittach.