Hate Crimes Ascend Alongside Trump

Demonstrators at a Westboro Baptist Church visit to Long Beach
Demonstrators at a Westboro Baptist Church visit to Long Beach
Christopher Victorio/L.A. Weekly

We can't blame President Trump for everything, but there's a correlation between a rise in hate crime in California and his rise to power.

The state Attorney General's office this week released California's annual hate-crime data, and it shows an 11.2 percent increase in such crime between 2015 and 2016. Hate crime saw a long, smooth decline starting in 2007 but started to inch up in 2015, according to the California Department of Justice's "Hate Crime in California" report.

In a statement, Attorney General Xavier Becerra didn't mention Trump by name, but he did allude to recent and hateful political discourse. "We can see from today's report that words matter, and discriminatory rhetoric does not make us stronger but divides us and puts the safety of our communities at risk," Becerra said.

Crimes based on race, ethnicity or national origin hit a seven-year low in 2014, with 412 such cases reported that year, according to the analysis. The next year, 428 were reported. Similar findings applied to sexual orientation–related hate crime, which saw a seven-year low of 187 reports in 2014 and a tiny increase to 188 in 2015.

For 2016 the number of crimes statewide related to race, ethnicity or national origin was 519, according to the DOJ report. Sexual-orientation crimes were up to 207 last year.

Anti-religious hate crime saw a small decrease, from 190 reports in 2015 to 171 last year, the data show. "Hate crimes with an anti-Jewish motivation continue to be the most common within the religion-bias category, accounting for 11.1% of all hate events reported since 2007," a summary states.

Richard Zaldivar, executive director of the Wall-Las Memorias Project, a nonprofit that serves Latino, LGBT and other underserved populations, had no problem placing some blame for the increase on the politics of Trump, who has, through words and policies, singled out Mexican immigrants as criminals and Muslims as potential terrorists. The president, he argues, has been spewing "hatred and bigotry."

"There was a decrease in hate crimes under an African-American president who acknowledged vulnerable and underserved populations," Zaldivar says. "I think everybody should be alerted to the current racism, classism and elitism and that we should not allow this to be our normal behavior in our country. These are really scary times."

A spring report by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino exposed similar findings, including a 14 percent annual increase in hate crime in California's largest cities. "Private groups confirm our findings of a 2016 post-election increase in hate crimes, showing increases in both criminal and noncriminal incidents, as well as an increase of hate groups in the state," according to the report.

"We're going to see more of this," Zaldivar says. "People really do look up to the office of the president."


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