U.S. Hate Crime Spike: This Is How Bad the Problem Is Getting

Women protesting Ahmaud's death

Image via Shutterstock

By Giselle Balido

May 14, 2020

The numbers from the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center reveal that the alarming spike in hate crimes continues to grow across the nation.

In a hard to watch video that recently surfaced, Gregory and Travis McMichael are seen shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery with a shotgun and a .357 Magnum on February 23. The 25-year-old Black man was jogging through a suburb in Glynn County, Georgia, when he was accosted by the father and son duo. He was found to be unarmed.

The crime occurred after two residents of Brunswick, Georgia, called 911 to report seeing Arbery near a construction site and running down their neighborhood. Arbery’s family said that the young man, who was a former all-star linebacker at Brunswick High, was simply jogging, as he often did. 

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After the shooting, the McMichaels weren’t charged, in part because of a local “citizen’s arrest” law that allows civilians to intervene if they witness a crime. But even when asked directly by the dispatcher, neither caller mentioned a crime occurring. In fact, nothing was taken from the construction site.

Now, after their arrest on May 7, the Department of Justice weighs the evidence to determine whether to press federal hate crime charges against the two white men. 

A Hateful Spike

But regardless of whether the McMichael’s are ultimately found to have committed a (allegedly) hate crime, a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks white supremacists and other extremist groups, shows that the rise in hate crimes may have begun as early as four years ago.

Across the nation protesters claiming “Black Lives Matter” have come out to protest Ahmaud Arbery’s senseless death.

According to the report, after three consecutive years of decline near the end of former President Barack Obama’s time in office, 2018 saw the fourth straight year of growth in the number of hate groups in the U.S., a whopping 30 percent.

This troubling spike coincides with Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency, says Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.

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“These numbers tell a striking story, that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one,” Beirich told CBS News. “Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done. President Trump elevates it with both his rhetoric and his policies. In doing so, he’s given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts.”

According to the report issued by the SPLC, in 2018 the number of white nationalist groups grew nearly 50 percent, from 100 groups to 148 in 2018. FBI data released that same year shows that the majority of the reported hate crimes were motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry bias, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, and gender. 

The sobering news is that just one year later, in 2019, the SPLC documented 940 active hate groups in the United States. 

A Tool to Track the Hate

To help the public remain vigilant to this alarming, dangerous trend, the SPLC now has an interactive map to explore its findings on hate groups across the country. Users can filter the map to focus on particular ideologies, such as neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, neo-Confederates, Ku Klux Klan, and white nationalists active in their state.



CATEGORIES: National | Social Justice


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