The Corner

Law & the Courts

The Collapsing Hate-Crimes Narratives

Jussie Smollett attends a special event for the television series Empire in 2016. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Why designate a crime a “hate crime?” After all, isn’t an assault an assault or a robbery a robbery regardless of the identity of the victim or perpetrator? What purpose does the designation serve?

The progressive/media narrative is that hate crimes not only abound in America, but are increasing with a purported upswing in racism and white supremacy in the era of Trump. Perpetuating that narrative, politicians from Kamala Harris to Joe Biden to Corey Booker to Nancy Pelosi immediately denounced the alleged racist and homophobic attack on actor Jussie Smollett; news anchors lamented that such things seem commonplace in 2019. Proliferating gangs of racists were running rampant throughout the land.

But facts confound the narrative. FBI statistics for 2015 (the most recent available at the time of the 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hate Crimes Hearing ) show that there were 1,997,700 violent crimes in the U.S. A total of 5,850 crimes were designated hate crimes — whether violent or non-violent. There were 15,696 cases of murder or manslaughter in the U.S., of which 8, or .0005, were designated hate crimes. There were 764,449 aggravated assaults, of which 681, or .00089, were designated hate crimes. There were 124,047 rapes, of which 12, or .000096, were designated  hate crimes. There were 327,374 robberies, of which 120, or .00036,  were designated  hate crimes.

Despite media flogging, there’s little credible evidence of an appreciable increase since then. In 2017, nearly 90 percent of reporting police departments registered zero hate crimes in their respective jurisdictions. True, not all hate crimes are reported. But neither are non-hate crimes. Moreover, not all incidents designated as hate crimes are motivated by animus toward the victim’s identity, and that’s not counting hoaxes or dual-motive cases.

Another fact that frustrates progressives’ hate-crimes narrative is that MAGA-hat-wearing white males aren’t disproportionate perpetrators of hate crimes. Not even close. The most recent data show that blacks are more likely to commit hate crimes than whites. And not by a margin of 5 percent or 10 percent. Not even by as much as 25 percent. Blacks are  approximately 200 percent more likely to commit hate crimes than whites.

During the aforementioned U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on hate crimes I posed two simple questions to a panel of witnesses consisting of criminologists, law-enforcement officials, and hate-crime experts:

Are you aware of any data, studies, or other evidence that shows that designating a crime a hate crime deters, prevents, or reduces that crime, and second, whether designating a crime a federal hate crime reduces, deters, or prevents incidents of that crime?”

There was complete silence. So I asked a third question:

Then, one other question, are you aware of any databases, study, or other evidence that shows designating a crime a hate crime, whether municipal, federal, or state crime, assists in the resolution of that crime or the apprehension of that perpetrator?”


So, if designating a crime a hate crime doesn’t deter, prevent, or resolve such crime, what’s the purpose of the designation?

By now, most Americans are getting a pretty good idea.

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Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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