Hate crimes and bias incidents are on the rise nationally, and in some cases, are outpacing national numbers on college campuses.
In 2017, more than 7,000 hate crimes were reported nationally, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Racial and ethnic prejudice motivated the most hate crimes in 2017, according to the FBI, with African-Americans being targeted for nearly half of the crimes reported. Religion and sexual orientation were the two other primary motivators reported, with over half of the religious attacks targeting Jewish-Americans.
On college campuses, anti-Semitic incidents doubled, outpacing anti-Semitic incidents nationwide, according to Jeremy Bannett, associate regional director of the Philadelphia Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an international Jewish organization based in the United States that specifically addresses anti-Semitism.
“It does seem to be increasing faster on college campuses, but the increase is happening really in all areas of life,” Bannett said.
The U.S. Department of Education reported that hate crimes increased 25 percent from 2015 to 2016 on college campuses. Colleges and universities reported a total of 1,250 hate crimes for 2016, up from 970 the previous year.
There are a number of reasons for that increase, Bannett said, including political rhetoric and increased anonymity in cyberspace.
Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, also attributes the increase to divisive politicians, and to President Donald Trump, in particular.
“What Donald Trump does is he emboldens individuals on the heels of the first African American president,” Lassiter said.
“Some people have called this a white lash. We have an emboldened president who is disrespecting black and brown bodies. He disrespects black women in particular.”
Both Bannett and Lassiter said more people are also reporting hate incidents even as such incidents remain underreported overall.
“People know this is a problem now, and they’re calling the ADL and the FBI and law enforcement and other authorities more regularly to report what has happened,” Bannett said.
Currently, there are no official national statistics for bias incidents, which do not involve criminal acts, according to Bannett. But bias incidents can still cause great harm to a community, he said.
“For example, what happened on the dorm door of the two African-American students at St. Joe’s would not count as a crime,” Bannett said. “But still, that was a very painful and terrible bias incident that needed to be reported somewhere.”
Bannett said once an incident is reported, it is “vitally important” for administrators to communicate.
“If you don’t tell people you’re on it, then people are going to assume that you are not on it, even if you are,” he said. “You got to get in front of it. You got to say, ‘Yes, we know it’s happening. Yes, we are on top of it, and we will keep you posted as the investigation goes through.’”
For Lassiter, next steps should address racism at its core.
“We need to do a deeper dive into our policies, to really nd out if we are going to continue this trend of bias versus hate,” Lassiter said. “We need to continue to make sure our classrooms are diverse, our curriculums are diverse and our cultural centers are actually dealing with issues of power differential. It would be corrective action and restorative justice.”