The State of Hate in the U.S.

Is America really full of hate? Are we truly a nation teeming with victims? Outsiders could certainly come to that conclusion after digesting the steady stream of agitated comments from activists and politicians and media reports about the divisive state of our interpersonal relationships.

Hate speech, hate crimes, violence perpetrated by hate groups – all topics the media has made a near-daily staple of their coverage. Headlines scream that hate is on the rise! Facts reveal a very different picture.

We are a nation of more than 327 million people. According to the latest FBI statistics (from 2017) there were 7,175 hate crimes reported.  That was a bit higher than the year before but there were also more law enforcement agencies reporting in.  Not all hate crime complaints were found to be legitimate, but even if they were 7,175 reports in a nation with a population of more than 327 million?  Using these statistics, the only conclusion to be reached is that hate crimes are rare.

To be fair, there are those who maintain there has been a “massive underreporting” in the FBI’s voluntary database because local police agencies fail to train officers in hate crime detection. They point to Bureau of Justice Statistics that estimate Americans don’t report more than 50% of hate crime but still “experience an average of 250,000 hate crime victimizations each year” (from 2004 through 2015.)  250,000 reports (again, not all substantiated) from a population as large as the United States is hardly an epidemic.

FBI Stats Do Not Show an Epidemic of Hate Crimes

Many media reports point to an analysis of 2017 data done by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. The report declares that hate crimes in 10 major U.S. cities have “risen to the highest level in over a decade.”  Sounds scary but adding up all the reported hate crimes from those 10 cities equaled only 1,038. Again, a teensy fraction of the American population.

None of this is to downplay hate. It is only to put all the statistics floating around in perspective.

Admittedly, there are both far-right and far-left extremist groups in America that make it their mission to target specific racial, sexual or religious groups.  And there are seething individuals fueled by anger, hate and perhaps mental illness who want to harm those who don’t look like, act like or believe in the same ideology as they do. None of this should be tolerated.  And it is not.

White Nationalist Christopher Paul Hasson, a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant was recently arrested for planning the mass murder of democratic politicians and journalists. He wrote that he started his career of hate as “a skinhead 30 plus years ago” before he joined the military. Hasson was caught after making too many extensive searches for extremist websites while at work.

Hodgkinson Targeted Republicans for Death

James Hodgkinson, a man reported to be “strongly anti-Trump”, cased a Virginia ballfield for weeks in his hunt for republican lawmakers. Then, in June 2017, he opened fire nearly killing Congressman Steve Scalise. After an intense shoot out four others were injured and Hodgkinson was killed.

And we should never forget last October’s attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg where 11 parishioners were murdered, another 6 injured by Robert Bowers a man who proclaimed Jews are ”the enemy of white people.”  Hate certainly poured forth from Bowers but labelling his action as “hate murder” achieves what exactly? Murder is already the most heinous of crimes punishable by life in prison or even death.

Bowers Targeted Jewish Congregants for Death

And for the sake of LGBT Americans it is beyond a shame that actor Jussie Smollett made false claims of a racist, homophobic attack because countless members of the LGBT community live with the very real fear of just such an assault.

Unfortunately, being suspicious of and attacking strangers is as old as the bible, folks. There is no way to stamp out hate in every soul.

But there is more societal acceptance about our differences now.  Our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces are more diverse than ever.  Interfaith and interracial  marriage has been steadily increasing, proving love can beat out tribal loyalty. Gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, Voter turnout reached record levels in 2016 indicating more Americans are coming together to involve themselves in the political process. The economy is stronger, employment is at an all-time high. I see so much more tolerance and acceptance of those who look different, love differently, worship in an unfamiliar way.  This should be our take away these days and not the continuous outcry about how hate- filled things are.

Are there still pockets of hatred in America? Yes and, sadly, there always will be. Hate is as old as time itself. Get used to the idea that life will never be perfect or as President Jimmy Carter once famously said. “Life isn’t fair.”

The outlier to all this improvement in relations, of course, is the confirmation bias so many of us practice, shutting out other’s political views when they don’t match ours.  We really need to work on that.



  1. Diane Dimond on March 4, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    Reader Dianne Layden writes:

    Thank you for your column about hate crimes. Below are comments based on 30 years of research, articles, presentations, and conversations with researchers.

    One paper focused on the 2014 hate crime at Nosh Deli in (Albuquerque’s) Nob Hill, which closed 18 months later. The owner cited the hate crime as one reason.

    First, hate crime data are wildly inaccurate. As you know, the Hate Crime Statistics Act does not require law enforcement participation. The low reporting rate of victims is equally important. The report in the link below cites handling the incident another way (41%) as the most common reason, but other reasons include the belief reporting will do no good, fear of retaliation, and not wanting to identify as a victim.

    Second, white supremacists and anti-Semites have a far longer and more brutal history of hate crimes than groups that oppose them – centuries, actually, of crimes against Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, LGBTQ people, Immigrants, and other members of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Anti-government and anti-abortion activists also have committed hate crimes. These crimes include harassment, vandalism, arson, assault, and murder, including mass murder and genocide.
    Left-wing groups are said to seek social justice and equality. Some have engaged in violence, e.g., antiwar, environmental, and animal rights groups; the Unabomber, who was anti-technology; and Antifa, which opposes people deemed fascist and neo-Nazi, mainly in West Coast cities. Also, as you note, perceived left-wing hate crimes include the baseball field shooting of Republicans.

    Below is a link to a recent Southern Poverty Law Center report that attributes 2/3 of domestic terrorism to right-wing extremism. Of course, SPLC is controversial for some observers. When I sent a copy of a hate crimes paper to a colleague in threat assessment, he said SPLC data were biased. Also below are links to additional relevant articles.

    The Ku Klux Klan rose, subsided, and rose again over and over. According to author Stephen Singular, who has written about these groups, they historically operated on the fringes of society but in the 1980s moved into the mainstream. He wrote a book about the 1984 assassination of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg by The Order, a white supremacist group supported by bank robberies. Its leader, Robert Mathews, died in a shootout with the FBI on Whidbey Island in Washington.

    To me, President Trump’s equating neo-Nazis in Charlottesville with their opposition harms democracy.

  2. Diane Dimond on March 5, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Reader LouisaFL@Lavalow writes:

    I think we are told this (about hate crimes) but actual statistics do not back up these claims. It can distort people’s view of the world pretty easily.

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