Cheap Seats 2019
Smollett - 02/27
By Rich Trzupek
The exposure of Jussie Smollett’s fake hate crime left a lot of people with egg on their faces. In the aftermath of the scandal some of those who condemned the “attack” scurried for cover while others expressed their disappointment with the actor’s actions. For some, Smollett’s hoax caused all the more damage because it distracts people from whom they believe to be the real race problem in America today: President Donald Trump and his supporters.
We’re all familiar with the theory: Trump is a racist. His election emboldened all of the closet, white racists whose bigotry is constantly smoldering just below the surface of their apparently polite behavior. “Dog whistles” are being employed to send secret racist messages to a lot of white Americans, but most dangerously to old white males like me. According to the theory, one of the ways this process manifests itself is an increase in hate crimes.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) reacted to first reports of the attack on Smollett as an “attempted modern day lynching.” After the truth came out, she wrote: “Like most of you, I’ve seen the reports about Jussie Smollett and I’m sad, frustrated and disappointed.” Well said. But, then she wrote this: “At the same time, we must speak the truth: hate crimes on the rise in America. Just last year, the FBI released statistics that revealed a 17 percent increase of hate crimes in America.”
As a person who works with data, alarm bells begin to go off in my head when a public figure casually tosses out an alarming statistic like that, without any context or further detail. So, I jumped on the FBI website and started breaking down the numbers.
The FBI keeps a lot of very detailed statistics on hate crimes. For the most part, they act as compiler and validator, rather than primary source of these statistics. Other law enforcement agencies send the FBI data, the FBI checks the data and, assuming it meets their criteria, enters it into their database.
One could, if one had the time, do a detailed analysis of the data year by year by year. It would not surprise me to learn someone had done so. My more modest analysis focused on two years: 2011 and 2017. I chose 2011 because it was in the middle of the Obama era, was not an election year and could thus be expected to reflect the mood of the nation during a time when progressives were very happy with the way government was running, while those on the right were not. I choose 2017 because it’s the latest year available and it’s also the first year of the Trump administration, with a lot of unhappy people on the left and much more satisfaction among conservatives and libertarians.
A first look at the stats suggests Sen. Harris might be on to something. The FBI reported 6,222 single-bias incidents in 2011 and 7,175 in 2017. That’s an increase of a little over 15 percent. But, that comparison is a little deceptive because not all local law enforcement organizations (LEOs) choose to report hate crimes to the FBI. The Agency indicates the populace covered by participating local LEOs in 2011 was about 286 million, while it was 306 million in 2017. We really need to “normalize” the data so we can make a fair comparison. So, I generated the hate crime rate per million people for each year. The 2011 incident rate was 21.8 per million, and the 2017 rate was 23.4 per million. That’s an increase of about 7.5 percent. Better than 15 percent, but still an increase. So, the next question is obvious: why an increase at all?
The most significant increases in hate crime incident rates between 2011 and 2017 occurred in one ethnic group and two religious’ groups. With one exception, they are not groups most people would guess. What the FBI identifies as anti-white hate crimes rose 37 percent, ani-Jewish hate crimes rose almost 14 percent and anti-Islamic hate crimes rose over 60 percent.
The over-all anti-black incident rate was still much higher than the anti-white incident rate – 6.6 per million compared to 2.4 per million – but the rate of anti-black incidents dropped over those six years by almost 10 percent. Similarly, although the rate of anti-Jewish hate crimes increased far less than anti-Islam hate crimes, the overall rate of anti-Jewish hate crimes remains substantially larger than anti-Muslim hate crimes: 3.1 per million compared to 0.9 per million. Anti-gay (male) and anti-lesbian incidents dropped by 17 percent and 14 percent respectively.
Now two years of data does not a study make and I’m not suggesting it should. But this snapshot should at least give Sen. Harris and like-minded Americans pause, for it does not suggest rising anger and violence in our nation inspired by nefarious Trumpian dog-whistles directed at minorities and the LGBT community. It rather points to growing anger directed at whites, Jews and – to a lesser, but still important extent, at Muslims.
Like all violence, that directed at Muslims simply because of their choice of religion is reprehensible, but I think most of us understand (but do not excuse) its origins. The reason for the growing amount of anger and violence aimed at whites and Jews? I will leave that for the reader to decide.