This Week in Hate — July 27 — The Normalization of Hate Incidents

Pre­pared for SAALT by Rad­ha Modi

The elec­tion and pres­i­den­cy of Don­ald Trump has nor­mal­ized the occur­rence of hate inci­dents across com­mu­ni­ties. Since his elec­tion, SAALT has doc­u­ment­ed 117 inci­dents of hate vio­lence tar­get­ing those who iden­ti­fy or are per­ceived as Mus­lim, South Asian, Arab, Mid­dle East­ern, and Asian. The num­ber of inci­dents has sur­passed the total from the pre­vi­ous year and the aver­age per week is about four inci­dents (not tak­ing into account spikes in hate inci­dents post attacks that are labeled as “ter­ror­ist”). Undoubt­ed­ly, at this rate, the total num­ber of inci­dents will dou­ble by the end of the year.

Con­sis­tent­ly, ver­bal and writ­ten hate speech and threats are the most com­mon type of vio­lence Mus­lims and those per­ceived to be Mus­lim face. The total num­ber of 47 ver­bal and writ­ten threats since the elec­tion is dou­ble that of the pre­vi­ous year. This is a con­cern­ing trend as it may be an indi­ca­tor of the grow­ing sanc­tion­ing of hate speech in the U.S. Just over the last month, an Augus­ta-area Mosque near Atlanta, GA received eight sep­a­rate voice mes­sages threat­en­ing “to shoot, bomb and oth­er­wise attack mosques and attack Mus­lims in Amer­i­ca.” The per­pe­tra­tor has yet to be iden­ti­fied. Atlanta Coun­cil for Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR) in response has sent out warn­ings to mosques and CAIR offices across the U.S. to be on alert.

The pie-chart on the right demon­strates that the rise in the num­ber of hate inci­dents are region­al­ly rel­e­vant regard­ing occur­rence and report­ing. More than two-thirds of doc­u­ment­ed hate vio­lence occurred in the East­ern and West­ern regions of the U.S. where many immi­grant, Mus­lim, and South Asian com­mu­ni­ties are con­cen­trat­ed. The high­er pro­por­tion of doc­u­ment­ed hate crimes in these regions is due to a vari­ety of issues relat­ed to ease of report­ing, vis­i­bil­i­ty of the crime, and vis­i­bil­i­ty of the vic­tim. As a result, the spot­light on these regions should be viewed crit­i­cal­ly.

The nor­mal­iza­tion of hate inci­dents is a crit­i­cal issue fac­ing mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. A few not­ed signs of nor­mal­iza­tion in the media are: 1. the slow pick up of hate vio­lence reports by news media, 2. the infre­quent report­ing of hate inci­dents by major news out­lets, and 3. the reduced over­all air time on hate inci­dents tar­get­ing com­mu­ni­ties of col­or. Local news media are more like­ly than major nation­al news media to report hate inci­dents. Fur­ther, there is a three to four-week lag between the occur­rence of an inci­dent and the report­ing by local news. This lag may be inten­tion­al on the part of tar­get­ed com­mu­ni­ties to pro­tect vic­tims and report inci­dents to the news once all the details are dis­cerned. Yet, the lag of almost a month in com­bi­na­tion with over­all reduced air time on hate vio­lence, par­tic­u­lar­ly against com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, may also be indi­ca­tions of the nor­mal­iza­tion of this type of vio­lence and thus sup­pos­ed­ly not as news­wor­thy.