If you’re one of those who believe that hate crimes against Jews and other religious or racial or ethnic minorities in America have reached unprecedented levels, and that President Trump’s too often offensive rhetoric is solely or even mainly responsible, here are some numbers to consider:
These numbers represent the FBI’s figures on the annual number of reported religiously, racially, and ethnically motivated hate crimes in the United States in the year 2005, and then annually from 2010 through 2016. The FBI won’t be reporting its 2017 results for at least a few more weeks, but these statistics indicate that the incidence of such transgressions has been falling recently, not rising. (I chose these years assuming that, by 2005, much post-September 11 anti-Muslim and anti-Middle Easterner sentiment had cooled, and then listed annual numbers in 2010 because that’s our last beginning of a decade.)
It’s true that there’s been a major rebound between 2015 and 2016, and that Mr. Trump declared his presidential candidacy in June, 2015. So maybe that accounts for the increase? Possibly. But then how to explain the considerably higher numbers in 2005 and 2010 – and the slightly higher number in 2011? Were dog whistlers occupying the Oval Office then?
Blame-Trump efforts look even weaker when the makeup of the 2015-16 increase is examined. Here are those data, by reporting/victim group, along with the statistics for the previous year’s change, to provide some context:
percentage changes 2014-15 2015-16
blacks -0.09 0.86
whites 7.64 15.21
Jews 6.87 17.92
Muslims 107.43 26.38
Hispanics -9.26 23.21
In other words, a case can be made that Trump rhetoric played some role in prompting a significant number of hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, and Hispanics. But the President is widely accused of being a racist, too. Why, then, was there virtually no change in the incidence of hate crimes against African Americans? The rate of increase in hate crimes against whites, moreover, nearly doubled. What’s up with that? And although the numbers of such offenses against Muslims rose strongly between 2015 and 2016, they rose at more than four times faster the previous year – in fact, more than doubling. Did more extremist bigots decide to tune in to Mr. Trump on Hispanics between 2015 and 2016, as opposed to his Muslim remarks? And if so, what could explain that development?
Saturday’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting justifies a special focus nowadays on hate crimes committed against Jews, so here are the FBI figures for reports of such incidents for 2005, and annually between 2010 and 2016:
These results provide some support for claims that Mr. Trump’s emergence on the political scene inspired some of the nation’s worst anti-semites to crawl out from under their rocks. But they also show that the Jewish-focused alt-right/neo-Nazis etc were significantly less activated in 2015 and 2016 than they were in 2005 or 2010. And of course, the overall U.S. population grew during that period.
Further, it’s easy to reach similar conclusions from this list of years, starting in the twentieth century, that have seen acts of actual violence on American Jews themselves (as opposed to, e.g., synagogue vandalism or verbal harassment):
The source is The Atlantic Monthly; I’ve added the 2000 Pittsburgh murder that I described in yesterday’s post which the magazine for some reason omitted. Although numbers like this per se can’t convey casualty counts and other qualitative measures of lives lost or individuals wounded or fear induced, there’s no support here for the idea that American Jews should feel less safe now than ever before. In fact, the worst decades look like the 1980s and 1990s. (Keep in mind that actual casualty levels don’t necessarily reveal the virulence of an attack.)
It’s certainly possible that the FBI’s upcoming 2017 data could show a big jump in various types of reported hate crimes, and that a Trump effect will be lot clearer (depending, again, on the makeup of the increase). Until then, however, the charges that Trump-ian dog whistles are the big reason for record (at least in modern times) threats to American minorities of all or even many kinds will be sounding an awful lot like dog whistles themselves.