Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More on Hate Crimes in the US

My post titled Rednecks, White Power, and Blue States has generated quite a bit of a stir (well, not as much as if I’d put a puppy in a blender, but pretty good for me) and a bit of a backlash. There are two main pushbacks that I have detected. The first is “Well, see, Southern racist cops don’t *report* hate crimes, ‘cuz they’re, you know, Southern racist cops. Like in Gator. Or White Lightning.” The other one is, in short “go to Hell, you mouth-breather!”

Thankfully, the first is much more common than the second.

Let’s take a look at that first claim, then, and see if it might be true. Personally, I suspect that the FBI pays a bit more attention to racism and hate crimes in the South (after all, they also went to public schools where they learned that the words to “Southern Man” were as true as the gospel), but they might be getting fooled by all those cracker sheriffs, might’nt they?

I spoke with the Public Affairs Office of the FBI in Atlanta concerning the compilation of hate crime statistics for their own annual reports (which are my main source of information). They were very open in explaining how their statistics are gathered – in the same way that rape, murder, and other crime statistics are gathered, through the Criminal Justice Information System. They were very clear that they have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the statistics and that years of use have found no holes or discrepancies. Remember, the police anywhere hiding racially-motivated crimes would be a violation of the Civil Rights Act and would result in an FBI investigation for denial of civil rights.

But, again, what if they are being lied to? Or, horrors! What if they are in on “it”? How would we know? Well, in 2000 the reporting of hate crimes became very visible/politicized with a series of reports and outside scrutiny. The result has been a strengthening of federal hate crime laws and an increased scrutiny on the reporting of hate crimes at all levels.

How do others view the reports? Beginning in 2001 CAIR focused upon anti-Arab hate crimes and has been pretty relentless ever since. They have had few complaints, especially since 2002. And the Southern Poverty Law Center has been attacking the FBI for years, saying that hate crimes are terribly under-reported. But when I spoke with the PAO for the SPLC he admitted that the SPLC does no investigations of its own, has no researchers looking into hate crimes in any direct way, and bases its assumptions on what they ‘feel to be true’ (not a direct quote).

The ADL and ACLU declined to comment on the FBI’s hate crime statistics (in both cases the Georgia chapters declined and the national offices did not call back). I could find no references to either group complaining about the recent reporting, however, so we will put them in the ‘neutral’ column.

We will now cast out eyes further afield, all the way to Israel and the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. While not nearly as detailed in its analysis of American anti-Semitism as the FBI report, the Stephen Roth Institute report for America in 2004 seems to be a very close match to what other groups are reporting. While the Stephen Roth Institute does its own, independent, research, I was unable to confirm that they don’t just get their hate crime data from the FBI, so this is (at least right now) only evidence that independent organizations investigating hate crimes trust the FBI data. Considering the fact, though, that they are specifically looking for hate crimes and have experience in discovering these crimes for themselves in nations that don’t have central reporting, this is certainly a tick mark in favor of the statistics.

In short, high-profile groups that oppose hate crimes either have no problem with the numbers, no way to refute the numbers in a credible manner, or actively use them. These groups, plus the NAACP, the Southern Leadership Council, and many others all look for hate crimes in the South and have literally billions of dollars for locating, identifying, and exposing ‘hidden’ hate crimes. Combined with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that have everything to lose by covering up hate crimes, and I think the numbers are pretty trustworthy.

What about all those racist cracker cops in the South, anyway? I mean, they just might be able to pull off hiding all sorts of things, just like in Mississippi Burning, right?

Let us look now on Atlanta, the city closest to my own home. With a population that is over 60% Black, Atlanta is the only large city in America with an uninterrupted string of Black mayors for over 30 years. Atlanta is over 61% Black, about 33% White, about 4.5% Hispanic, and the rest divided amongst Asians, Native Americans, and other races. The Atlanta Metro also has a rather large Gay community, especially in the suburban enclaves in De Kalb and Fulton counties. The Atlanta Police Department is headed by a a Black man; indeed, 4 of the last five police chiefs have been Black, including a Black woman chief. The force is about 60% Black, a close reflection of the population. Do you expect me to believe that a Black cop in a majority Black town with a Black lieutenant that reports to a Black police chief that works for a Black mayor… is going to hush up a hate crime against a Black citizen? If you do, you will be disappointed.

The city of St. Paul, capitol of Minnesota, is (according to the census) about 11.7% Black. In contrast, the St. Paul Police Department is only about 5.7% Black (according to the St. Paul PD Public Affairs Office, a polite group of people). The St. Paul PD is further 3% Asian (the city is 12.3% Asian), 4.3% Hispanic (the city is 7.9% Hispanic), and 0.9% American Indian (the city is 1.1% American Indian). The rest of the sworn officers are White, making the police force for a city that is about 67% White a full about 86% White. The PAO that I spoke to, however, assured me that although he had never run the numbers (he gave me raw numbers, not percentages) he was sure that the PD was a close reflection of the city's ethnic distribution. When I asked him what percentage of St. Paul was White, he said "about 85%, I suppose", a guess reflecting the police force, not the city. As can be seen, Hispanics are under-represented by about 40%, Blacks are under-represented by about 50% and Asians are under-represented by about 75% on the SPPD.

Which town do you think is more likely to hide a hate crime?

Note: on 8/10/06 this post was edited for grammar, clarity, and to add an approved quote. No numbers or links were changed.

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