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Very Real

Why Is Trump’s Name Invoked In 1 In Every 5 Hate Crimes?

Reporting and documenting hate crimes is difficult. It’s also politically fraught.

By Jennifer Boeder

A fifth-grader told a Muslim student he supported Donald Trump “because he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he became president.” White high school students in Connecticut taunted Black and Latino teenagers from a rival school by chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump!” A San Francisco Bay Area Assyrian-American woman was harassed on public transportation and told “Trump might deport you.” The data around hate crimes reveals some disturbing patterns, among them how our 46th president is sometimes hailed as a patron saint during attacks on Americans of color.

(Graphic by SPLC. Data from the FBI Hate Crimes Statistics, 2016.)

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Pro Publica are working to create a more accurate database of hate crimes in America. SPLC’s Heidi Beirich confirms that “about a fifth of the attacks we've collected were done in Trump's name.”

How did our president’s name become what the New York Times calls “a racial jeer?” It’s no secret that hate crimes increased after Trump’s election, and while correlation may not equal causation, the sheer number of perpetrators who invoke Trump as they threaten marginalized people or commit acts of intimidation and violence is alarming. During the first year of Trump’s presidency, the nonprofit group South Asian Americans Living Together (SAALT) recorded a 45 percent increase in hate violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities in America. And their numbers echo the SPLC’s findings: SAALT says they say one in five of the perpetrators invoked Trump's name, his administration's policies, or his campaign slogans during attacks.

Accurate hate crime statistics can be tough to come by, especially as the FBI’s data seriously underestimates the true extent of the hate crime problem in the United States, and more than half of hate crime victims never report. New America Foundation is keeping track of anti-Muslim activities, and created this database to better understand and evaluate the scope and scale of anti-Muslim activities at the state and local level. Robert L. McKenzie, New America Senior Fellow and director of its Muslim Diaspora Initiative, says the term “hate crime” is problematic because of its inconsistency: “Some states have no hate crime laws on the books.” According to Pro Publica, “There is simply no reliable national data on hate crimes. And no government agency documents lower-level incidents of harassment and intimidation, such as online or real-life bullying.” Clearly more accurate data is needed, but there’s no denying that  prominent white supremacists see Trump as their champion: as founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer Andrew Anglin wrote, “Donald Trump is setting us free.”

(Header Image: A New York City protester holds a banner reading 'Hate Has No Home Here' during a rally against President Donald J. Trump on August 14, 2017. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)