A few days ago, Nathan Lean, the author of The Islamaphobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, and Research Director at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding had a piece published by Mic.com (for those of you unfamiliar with this site, it’s for mellenials and similar minded folks to lash out through a journalistic perspective, although they tackle other topics as well). This article, titled The Chapel Hill Shooting Was Anything but a Dispute Over Parking, and he provides a small list of examples of how parking disputes seem to plague the Muslim communities across the states. His point is a valid one. I am, however, baffled by his statement that:
“… But bringing up things like “parking disputes” in order to avoid conversations about deep-seated prejudices isn’t unheard of, either.”
[At which point the list begins…] I am unclear how the Chapel Hill tragedy is one in which a “parking dispute” is being used to avoid conversations about prejudices. No invitation to any legitimate conversation of religion and hate crimes has really been offered in my observations concerning Chapel Hill. One side says it’s a hate crime, the other says no it isn’t. One side offers only anecdotal evidence to suggest that it was a hate crime, and the other defends the accused’s right to oppose religion. No conversation has really ensued beyond the typical game of shifting blame, e.x., Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, “New Atheists”, etc., being blamed for it (because Mr. Hicks is an atheist). Among other things are analogies being made, albeit valid critiques, in how the media has responded to this incident and many others. Questions being asked such as “Why isn’t Hicks being labeled a terrorist? He terrorized a community, indeed a whole margenilized group!” But this question will cease, and likely go without an answer. Any answer given, likely will be given little thought, or shrugged off. In any case, Mr. Lean goes on to state:
Craig Stephen Hicks did not kill Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha over a parking spot.
Not in the context of a poisonous climate of anti-Muslim prejudice.
Not in a country where hate crimes that target Muslim communities are five times more common than they were after 9/11.
I would say that this is a valid point as well, but also in need of elaboration. If context matters, as well as statistical support for his claim, then the evidence would suggest that Hick’s should have followed suit with the various examples that Mr. Lean gave, that being of property crimes, or assault.
Here’s a chart mapping out the last 17 years of Hate Crime statistics as given by the FBI/UCR relevant to those victimized on the basis of their religion:
In 1996, 14% of hate crimes had to do with religion, and in 2013 (the year with the most recent data available), that number was up to 17%, although down from 19% from the year before (2012). The chart below translates numbers above into respective percentages of religious hate crimes:
These tables validate Mr. Lean’s point, that a poisonous climate exists in which Muslims are the target. Mr. Lean is correct in stating that Muslims are the victims of hate related crimes at a rate 5 (or 4 depending on the year) times higher than before 9/11. That’s all true. That being said, between 1996 and 2013, there were 2,725 hate crimes committed against Muslims. The big three offenses were Intimidation (1083, 39.7%), Vandalism (800, 29.36%), and Simple Assault (473, 17.36%). There were only 3 murders (0.11%) in the 17 years of data for which I am giving you today. The graph below gives greater detail to this point:
Of course, I am not concluding that this data unequivocally disproves those that suggest Mr. Hicks killed his three victims out of a hatred for Islam. I am however suggesting that 17 years of data makes it unlikely. If we are going to use data trends to point towards the likelihood of criminal offense on the basis of hate, or any other motive, then I would say that the data simply do not show it here. I would, however, lean on the idea that Mr. Hicks was intimidating his victims, and statistically, the likelihood is there. But was he doing it because he was a jerk? Or because he was anti-Islam/anti-Muslim? Who knows, and as I have suggested before, the evidence given to suggest he was hard lining towards anti-Islam/ anti-Muslim simply isn’t there – not without turning opposition, disagreements, and perspectives against religion into a hate crime.
To further this discussion, I do acknowledge that hate crimes are severely under-reported for a great number of reasons, indeed it is a multi-faceted problem in need of remedying. Based on a report drafted by the Department of Justice, reporting of hate crimes has dropped from 46% to 35% (comparing two time periods, 2003-2006 and 2007 to 2011). Even more appalling is that the number of violent hate crimes that resulted in an arrest dropped from 10% to 4%, a problem that speaks for itself entirely. But these numbers don’t necessarily prove, or suggest guilt on the part of Mr. Hicks as having committed a hate crime. While victims of religiously motivated hate crimes consisted of 17% last year, 60% of those victims were Jewish. Why is it that the media should be tarnished and berated for not labeling Mr. Hicks a hate monger, when they certainly do little or nothing to portray this overwhelming amount of violence towards Jews? Why is it that #MuslimLivesMatter when something like this breaks the news, but Jews are left unattended to?
The conversation concerning religiously motivated hate crimes should not occur in a vacuum, and any attempt to destroy fundamentalist tinted hatred towards others should be an attempt to cease all, not just one group whenever we feel angry enough, or when people die. Which brings me to another point. We hear it all the time…“Do we always have to wait until someone dies?” Well, apparently so. What has changed since the two people were murdered in 2012? Or the one person in 2004? Not much, really, because hate crime rates have remained fairly stable since 2002. But why is it that death must spur these kinds of events? Are the 473 assault victims not enough? The 1,083 victims of intimidation? The 800 victims of vandalism? This of course is a question left to psychology, and still probably a question that will plague these kinds of situations. And if the trend holds with respect to only 1 in 3 hate crimes being reported, that would mean that these numbers are staggeringly higher across the board (with the hypothetical exclusion of murder, given its main difference to the other crimes).
Moving on, Mr. Lead states:
In the week that has passed since Hicks’ rampage, a Houston man set an Islamic center on fire; two Dearborn, Michigan, men beat a Muslim father who was grocery shopping with his kids at Kroger; vandals spray-painted the words “Fuck Allah” and “Now this is a hate crime” on the walls of a Rhode Island Islamic school; a Washington state Hindu temple was mistaken for a mosque by criminals who emblazoned it — and a local junior high school — with the words “Muslims get out;” and two men were stabbed outside of a Michigan shopping mall in what police are considering a religiously motivated hate crime.
All of these examples follow the general rule, the statistical trend shown above, the nature of them being property crimes and assault. More importantly, based on that paragraph alone, it makes sense to assume that those are hate crimes. Writing “Fuck Allah”, and writing “Muslims get out” have a much more directed nature than an image that compares the similarities between radical Christians and Radical Muslims.
Mr. Lead concludes with:
“Obesity.” “Asthma.” “Headlock.” “Thuggery.” “Troublemaker” And, now, “parking.” We explain away violence that targets minority communities, and it has to stop. If we are serious about ending that violence, we’ll examine the climate of prejudice that breeds it, and we’ll quit looking for alternative explanations that make us feel better about the tragedies by placing partial blame on the victims.
Calling the North Carolina murders a “parking dispute” is an abomination. It’s an indicator of the real social cancer tearing apart the soul of this country.
A sentiment for which I concur with. The examples he gives are examples in which the media have skewed the views of victims, such as Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, a tragedy in and of itself. I would caution, however, the generalization that seems to have manifested itself, that being that every crime perpetuated by a white person against a minority person must be motivated in part, or in whole, by hatred. One cannot hope to end prejudices and hatred (racism) towards minority groups by jumping to conclusions in the capacity that has occurred in this case.
One final note: none of what I am saying should be construed, or misunderstood to mean, that I am suggesting that hate crimes don’t exist, that racism doesn’t exist, or any such misconceptions. The main argument of this piece, and the two others prefacing the same topic, is simply an opposition to generalizations, and the dangers of labeling dissent and opposition as being akin to hate, and prejudice.
Please feel free to leave a comment to further this conversation!
For FBI Tables and reports, here are the links: