This Week In Hate – August 4 – The Complexity of Documenting Hate

Prepared for SAALT by Radha Modi

SAALT, as well as other national advocacy organizations, are taking the lead in collecting and documenting hate incidents across communities as federal agencies fall short on this front. Organizations use news clippings as a common way to collect and document hate incidents. Often hate incidents do not make it to the news cycle in real time, and organizations only learn about some incidents weeks to months later. In addition, the reporting of hate incidents is a dynamic process with shifts in the safety, ease, and structural access around reporting for community members. Further, the defining and identifying of what constitutes a hate incident is also variable across organizations and media outlets. Considering all of these complex issues, the number of hate incidents against those who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Arab are in flux.

Recently, SAALT discovered past incidents that were not originally documented in the organization’s database. These missed incidents have now been cataloged in an effort to bring our communities the most up-to-date and accurate numbers in the dynamic landscape of documenting hate.

Persistent Patterns of Hate

It is important to note that while the numbers have changed from our previous reports, the overall patterns have remained the same. As shown in Figure 1, the total number of documented hate incidents post-election, tallying at 135, has surpassed the total number of hate incidents of 130 that occurred during the year prior to the election (see below for clarification).

Another pattern that has remained consistent is the prevalence of verbal and written assaults against community members. Figure 2 illustrates that the total number of verbal and written assaults is almost double that of the previous year before the election (57 post-election verbal hate incidents compared to 29 pre-election verbal hate incidents). The sanctioning of hate rhetoric from government officials locally and federally as well as the passing of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant legislation is commensurate with the increased normalization of verbal abuse of community members on the streets. On July 27, 2017, three Somali Muslim women were harassed by a white woman at a local Walmart near Fargo, North Dakota. The white woman screamed to the women that “Muslims were going to hell” and “We’re going to kill ya.” Threats such as these are becoming more commonplace as physical assaults and property damage incidents also involve verbal or written hate filled harassment.

In addition, as we remember the five year anniversary of the massacre at Oak Creek this week, the violence against the Sikh community continues with the increased anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric under the Trump administration. This past week the body of 68-year-old Sikh man, Subag Singh, was found with signs of trauma in an irrigation canal in Fresno, California. Subag Singh went missing on July 23, 2017, after leaving his house for a morning walk. While local police have yet to assign the murder of Subag Singh as a hate crime, the threat of hate violence against local Sikh communities remains across the US.

The 130 total from the pre-election year in the current database does not match the 140 total hate incidents covering the some of the same time period in our Power, Pain, and Potential report. Two issues led to this discrepancy. First, the 140 total in the Power, Pain, and Potential report also documented the uptick in hate incidents one week post-election.The 130 pre-election number in our current database does not include the first week following the election. Second, a handful of incidents categorized as hate incidents are now categorized as hate rhetoric in the current database. As SAALT standardizes the distinction between hate rhetoric and hate incident, the database is consequently updated and reflects these changes.