Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2019

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Sun editorial:

Spike in hate crimes in US since the rise of Trump is no coincidence

The full extent of President Donald Trump’s hate-mongering and his emboldening of white supremacists is becoming increasingly and alarmingly clear.

The latest evidence comes from the FBI, which reported this week that hate crimes rose 17 percent in the U.S. during 2017. It was the third consecutive year of increases in crimes targeting people based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability, the FBI reported in its annual statistics.

Perhaps most disturbing are the trends in crimes against Jews, blacks and gays, groups that historically have been victimized most often by white supremacists.

The number of hate crimes against Jews had fallen consistently and sharply from 2010 through 2014, but bounced up in 2015 and has continued to leap up from there. Here’s the eight-year trend:

2014 — 609

2015 — 664, up 8.7 percent

2016 — 684, up 3 percent

2017 — 938, up 37.1 percent from 2016 and up 54 percent from 2014

Similar trending happened in hate crimes targeting blacks, although the declines and increases have not been steady. The numbers:

2014 — 1,621

2015 — 1,745, up 7.6 percent

2016 — 1,739, down 0.03 percent

2017 — 2,013, up 15.7 percent from 2016 and up 24.1 percent from 2014

Crimes involving sexual orientation, the third-most frequent category of hate crime, increased 11 percent during the same time period, 1,017 in 2014 to 1,130 in 2017. Among Muslims, another frequently targeted group, crimes dipped last year but are still up a staggering 77 percent over the 2014 level.

In every case, the numbers had been falling in 2014 but kicked upward in 2015 — the year Trump announced his candidacy.

This is what Trump and his extremist followers have created. With Trump’s talk of being a nationalist despite the horrific connotations of that word, he fosters hate. The same happened when he said there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville, Va., and as he has repeatedly displayed reluctance to issue strong condemnations of white supremacists.

Trump’s efforts to normalize this behavior have given rise to situations like the one this week at a Wisconsin high school, where several boys apparently made Nazi salutes during a class photo.

Americans won’t stand for this corrosion of our values, as they showed during this year’s midterm referendum on Trump. That was particularly true in Nevada, where candidates who aligned themselves with Trump got destroyed in the balloting in favor of those calling for an end to the administration’s divisive politics.

Solidarity also has been on display through individual acts, such as outreach by Muslims and followers of other faiths to the survivors of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.

But while the voters and most of America recoil in horror, clearly white supremacists and neo-Nazis feel newly emboldened, protected and valued. Why? Look no further than the occupant of the White House. Trump has made it clear he holds racists dear to his heart as he cheers them on and contributes to their deranged conspiracy theories.

The trend represents an ongoing call for action.

For one, Trump’s Jewish financial backers must take responsibility for the president giving aid, comfort and recruiting material to white supremacists.

In backing Trump and his agenda, these donors are helping anti-Semitism thrive in America and putting Jews increasingly at risk by figuratively providing matches to light the torches of extremists.

Trump’s Jewish backers are engaging in self-interested, history-denying behavior — you’d have to imagine the NAACP funding the Ku Klux Klan to find something as perversely self-destructive.

Meanwhile, it’s critical for Americans to report hate crimes, for law enforcement officials to investigate them aggressively and for the justice system to punish to the fullest extent of the law those who commit them.

Keep in mind that the FBI statistics almost certainly represent only a fraction of the hate crimes that are actually being committed. It’s particularly telling that just 12.6 percent of the nation’s law enforcement departments reported any hate crimes, due to differences from state to state and even department to department in the way such crimes are classified. For instance, a swastika painted on a synagogue door could be classified as a hate crime by one department but mere vandalism by another. In several states, there aren’t even any specific laws regarding hate crimes.

Still, the FBI’s statistics provide more than enough evidence that hate crime is on the rise. And while the bureau doesn’t tie it to any specific cause, it’s obviously not happenstance that the numbers have been on the rise since Trump took to the national stage.

Americans proved on Nov. 6 that they won’t sit back and let the hatred continue to grow. But this is a fight that must go on.