The year 2018 was the deadliest and most violent year for hate since 2001 according to the newly released annual hate crimes report for 2018, released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States calls it just the tip of the iceberg.
The report shows that although there were a 7,120 hate incidents in 2018, down slightly from 7,175 in 2017, at the same time, 2018 witnessed more deadly hate violence than it had since the surge of violence against minority communities after the September 11th attacks in 2001.
The majority of the reported hate crimes were motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry bias (59.6 percent). Additional biases included religion (18.7 percent), sexual orientation (16.7 percent), gender identity (2.2 percent), disability (2.1 percent), and gender (0.7 percent).
The report shows that hate crimes towards Sikhs in the US tripled from 20 incidents in 2017 to 60 incidents in 2018. There were 188 anti-Muslim hate crimes recorded, down slightly from last year but the fifth-highest total on record.
There were 14 anti-Hindu hate crimes recorded in 2018– down from 15 in 2017.
The FBI annual report of hate crime statistics for 2018 shows that while hate crimes remained relatively steady nationally, reported anti-Sikh hate crimes rose by 200 percent since 2017, making Sikhs the third most commonly targeted religious group in the dataset.
Reacting to the report, Sim J. Singh, Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy at the Sikh Coalition told indica, “While national rates of hate crimes remained relatively steady from last year, the rise in documented anti-Sikh hate-crimes of 200 percent validated our deepest concerns that Sikhs are among the most frequently targeted identity in the United States.”
Singh said approximately 87 percent of law enforcement agencies failed to provide meaningful hate crime reports to the federal government–this kind of under-reporting demonstrates that the figures are just the tip of the iceberg. For every hate crime documented by the report, many more go uncatalogued.
When asked about the challenges the Sikh Coalition has been facing while they have been working hard to create awareness on the issue Singh said, “Even though Sikhs experience disproportionate hate and bigotry, we refuse for that to be our defining narrative.”
The Sikh Coalition remains committed to fighting hate in all forms– this is not a Sikh problem or a Jewish problem or a Muslim problem, but a problem for all Americans which demands a unified response.
“We need our federal, state, and local governments to improve their responses to hate crimes through better training, reporting, and [by] increasing policing resources to combat the problem,” Singh said.
SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together) too noted through a press release that what is equally disheartening is the fact that hate crimes remain systematically underreported across the United States. According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, Americans experience an average of 250,000 hate crimes per year; this latest FBI data, by contrast, shows that only 13 percent of the over 16,000 participating law enforcement agencies reported any hate crimes in their jurisdictions.
Disturbingly, the murders of Khalid Jabara, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and Heather Heyer in 2016 and 2017, like so many other hate crimes, have not been included in official FBI statistics. The vast majority of crimes are going unreported. And in both 2017 and 2018, over 50 percent of known offenders of reported hate crimes identified as white.
SAALT believes that the current administration continues to promote rather than address the root causes of this kind of violence. Comprehensive data collection is a critical component of documenting the problem, but acknowledging and actively combating white supremacy is the most important step to ensuring this violence doesn’t continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives.
Singh too says that it’s past time for action. Congress must pass the next generation of common-sense legislation that equips law enforcement to better identify and track hate incidents with the bipartisan “Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act.”
The Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act was named for two victims of high-profile murders, Khalid Jabara, killed in 2016, and Heather Heyer, killed in 2017, who were excluded from previous hate crime statistics due to poor data collection and reporting practices. This legislation would require the federal government to address underreporting and related issues by vastly improving hate crime reporting with funding for resources at the state level, including critical training for law enforcement and the establishment of hate crime reporting hotlines.
Indeed, just as Heather Heyer and Khalid Jabara’s hate crimes went uncatalogued by the FBI, the Sikh-American community experienced a similar oversight of a serious crime. In 2017, a man shot more than a dozen rounds into a van of five Sikh men in Carson City, Nevada, wounding Harmandeep Singh Shergill. The attacker was convicted on four counts with a hate crime enhancement and sentenced to 34 years in prison; nonetheless, the assault does not appear in the FBI’s 2017 data as a hate crime.