The Corner

U.S.

The Hate Crimes in Trump’s America Narrative

Jussie Smollett exits Cook County Department of Corrections after posting bail in Chicago, Ill., February 21, 2019. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)

Jussie Smollett’s arrest deflated mainstream media for barely a millisecond.

Immediately upon charges being filed against Smollett for allegedly making a false police report, the progressive media narrative shifted to an alleged spike in hate crimes. This CNN headline is typical: “Hate Crimes Rising Regardless of Jussie Smollett.”

Almost every media outlet attributed the alleged increase in hate crimes to President Trump’s “divisive rhetoric.” The alleged increase, it was noted, had occurred “in Trump’s America,” “Amid Trump’s First Year,” and “Since Trump Took Office.” Even the 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (of which I am a member) hate-crimes hearing was inspired by an alleged avalanche of hate crimes since Trump’s inauguration.

But the new narrative is inspired by either ignorance, mendacity, stupidity, or perhaps some combination thereof. A few facts:

  • Over the last decade the number of hate crimes has fluctuated between approximately 5,600 and 7,800 per year.
  • There were 7,615 total hate crimes reported in “Trump’s America” in 2017. Ten years earlier, when the U.S. population was 25 million less and far fewer agencies were reporting hate crimes, the number was nearly the same: 7,624. In 2006 (ten years before Trump’s America began) there were 9,652 hate crimes.
  • Hate crimes reported aren’t the same thing as hate crimes confirmed. Many hate crime reports are based on a victim’s perception of the reason for the crime. If a criminal uses a slur during a robbery he would’ve committed anyway, it may end up being reported as a hate crime.
  • There are more hate-crime statutes and ordinances today than there were just a few years ago and far more law-enforcement personnel have been trained to report hate crimes. Just a short time ago, if a white guy hit a black guy it would have been classified as aggravated assault, whereas today that same act is more likely to be classified as a hate crime.
  • There were over 1,000 more hate crimes reported in 2017 than in 2016. Journalist Robby Soave, who testified at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 2018 Hate Crimes Hearing, notes that the 2017 increase likely is the result of 1,000 more agencies beginning to report hate crimes in 2017 than reported in 2016.
  • Nearly 90 percent of police departments reported zero hate crimes in 2017. As portrayed by mainstream media, hate crimes generally consist of violent thugs beating, say, an outnumbered Jussie Smollett. In reality, hate crimes are more likely to consist of graffiti and vandalism.
  • If Trump’s “divisive rhetoric” is spurring hate crimes, it’s doing so in counterintuitive fashion: blacks are approximately 200 percent more likely to commit hate crimes than whites.
  • Without diminishing hate (or any other) crimes, perspective is in order. Hate crimes are a vanishingly small portion of total crime. For example, a total of 1,231,566 murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and robberies occurred in 2015. 821, or .00067, were classified as hate crimes. That’s for an entire year. An average of 550 Americans are struck by lightning per year, most of which strikes occur during just half the year. Even in Trump’s America.

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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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