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Hate crimes in the nation's 10 largest cities spiked significantly last year


For the second year in a row, hate crimes in large U.S. cities hit a record high. That's according to a new report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Chicago saw nearly 200 reported hate crimes last year. That's up from 104 in the previous year. And that trend is continuing across the country. The 10 largest cities have seen an average increase of 22%.

Criminal justice professor emeritus Brian Levin has been collecting data on hate crimes since 1986, and he joins us now. Thanks for being here, Brian.

BRIAN LEVIN: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

FADEL: So what is behind these record-high numbers, particularly over the past three years, according to your data?

LEVIN: I think a variety of things - the pandemic and how grievance then became aligned with different groups. What I mean is, first, Asian folks were blamed for COVID and the responses to it, and then Jews, et cetera, et cetera. But it allowed this kind of clustering of folks with different grievances to get together online because they were online more. So they really took in a lot of these conspiracy theories and stereotyping, which tied together like sailboats during a surge. In 2020, for instance, BLM, antifa, socialist and the N-word all went up in related rises online at the same time that we saw record months of anti-Black hate crime among others.

FADEL: How about the legislation that's been passing - the "Don't Say Gay" bill in Florida, the bills that are being debated in states across the country over gender-affirming care for young people, the questions around banning it - and some states have - book banning, school board meetings? Does that contribute to the increase?

LEVIN: Oh, my gosh. There's such a correlation. So, for instance, anti-Black hate crime, after dropping as a proportion of all hate crimes through 2019, skyrocketed in 2020, and it went up again in 2021. Out of the five biggest percentage increases in American cities last year, LGBTQ mixed was the No. 2 after other race. And we saw gender-nonconform, which includes drag, and transgender be in the top five, all at times when we saw an explosion in conflictual and sometimes violent rallies and a slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country.

FADEL: So what American politicians say and the legislation that passes does really matter and has an impact on this type of violence.

LEVIN: Could I give you another example? - 'cause with us, data is the star. Six days after 9/11, President Bush spoke of tolerance towards Muslims. Hate crimes dropped precipitously the next day and two-thirds the following year. However, if we look at other election seasons, five days after the San Bernardino terror attack, candidate Trump made his Muslim ban proposal. Hate crimes spiked against Muslims and Arabs about another 23% on top of the increase from the spike. So these kind of catalysts and then political or social invective that is used by celebrities and politicians correlates to increases against targeted groups. When the former Kanye made antisemitic rants, hate crimes across cities in the United States went up. Election years, we found - every presidential election year since '92, when records were first kept, has been up, and they've been up a lot more.

FADEL: Brian Levin is the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Brian, thank you so much.

LEVIN: Thank you for having me.

FADEL: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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