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On Jewish, Black, and transgender hate crime statistics

About this new statistic that's floating around. Here it is in a recent article in the New York Times:

"Contrary to what are surely the prevailing assumptions, anti-Semitic incidents have constituted half of all hate crimes in New York [City] this year, according to the Police Department. To put that figure in context, there have been four times as many crimes motivated by bias against Jews — 142 in all — as there have against blacks. Hate crimes against Jews have outnumbered hate crimes targeted at transgender people by a factor of 20."

- "Is It Safe to Be Jewish in New York?" by Ginia Bellafante, New York Times, Oct. 31, 2018

This statistic excites some people, perhaps because they like to show that their group is more oppressed than others. But, of course, we should not perceive hate crimes statistics as a competition; the desirable rate for all groups is zero. As someone who is both transgender and Jewish, I do not feel better—neither more assured of my own safety nor more righteously outraged—knowing that there are more crimes against one of my identities than another.

It's also important to unpack various possible meanings of these numbers before we rush to interpret them.

First of all, there are 20 times more Jews than transgender people in New York City. New York City has a population of 8.5 million, including (on a low estimate) 1 million Jews. Transgender people are currently estimated to make up about 0.5% of the total population of the United States, which would predict about 50,000 transgender people in New York City. One possible explanation of why 20 times more hate crimes are reported against Jews than against transgender people is that there are 20 times more potential Jewish individual targets than potential transgender individual targets.

Then again, it may not be especially relevant how many individuals there are in the targeted group. What might matter more is how many haters there are, because they are the ones committing the crimes. This would require an analysis of active hate groups. It may indeed be true that hate groups focus more on ethnic/racial/religious identity than on gender/sexual identity.

I do not know what to make of Bellafante's report of the NYPD statistics that four times as many anti-Jewish crimes were reported than anti-Black crimes, since there are twice as many Black people as Jewish people in New York City. Many black people fear interacting with the police even to report crimes against them, or they expect that it's at minimum a waste of their time to do so because they believe their reports will not be pursued. Many of the Black people in New York City are recent immigrants, so they may be even less likely to report hate crimes, or, when they do report them, these crimes may be categorized — I am speculating — as representing bias on the basis of nationality or religion rather than race.

It's also important to note that hate crimes do not always target individuals. Sometimes they target institutions. There are far more visible Jewish institutions (synagogues, community centers, non-profits, political action committees, Israeli-American or Zionist organizations, Judaica stores) than transgender institutions, so it is (sadly) predictable that the visible institutions might be targeted more often.

Furthermore, once a hate crime has occurred that affects multiple members of an organization, it seems that is more likely to be reported than if it had occurred to an individual. When the janitor finds hateful graffiti on the door of a synagogue, she reports it so that the synagogue members can be aware and feel that the issue is being properly addressed. The janitor does not necessarily report graffiti on the door of her own home, for any number of reasons: she is too busy to speak to the police in her "free time," she needs to use her "free time" to clean up the graffiti and once she cleans it up it won't be there anymore to show to the police, she rationalizes it as being "just kids" and not a real threat, she worries that it is a real threat and that she will endanger herself more if she reports it, she is battling intense emotions (shame, anger, sadness, fear of more attacks, anxiety about not being believed) that reduce her available energy for reporting it, she doesn't have a witness to corroborate her account and help her with the administrative task of reporting it, she worries that she knows who did it and that she'll need to take them to court and she can't afford a lawyer, etc.

Many transgender individuals — unlike most Jews — also worry about being "outed" to their family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers — and to the police. Even if they are comfortable stating their transgender identity, their gender may be complicated to explain to others, and they may find it a hassle to explain why they believe an incident was a hateful attack on their gender. This may reduce their willingness to report hate crimes against themselves to the police. And, due to pressures they face from their other identities — their race, nationality, language, immigrant status — they may be further reluctant to interact with the police to report encountering hateful attacks based on their gender.

Therefore, in repeating the New York City statistic that appeared in the New York Times, I would be wary of misusing it to downplay the occurrence of hate crimes that are motivated by bias against Black and transgender people. We can combat anti-Semitism while also combatting other forms of racism and bigotry. In fact, we have to combat all kinds of hate simultaneously. Hate groups have multi-faceted agendas out of which their attacks grow. Deciding selectively which kinds of attacks are more important to each of us personally is missing the broader threat. We can't bat down visible, reported anti-Semitism without also batting down what those same hate groups are doing to other groups. If we don't care about all of it and support each other, we will still find ourselves targeted on whatever basis "they" come up with.

A new statistic from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSHE) at California State University San Bernardino, as reported by LGBTQ Nation in August 2019, "found that hate crimes across the U.S. have risen by nine percent over the last year including against LGBTQ people, Jews and people of color." Indeed, "though crime overall in major cities declined in the last two years, bias-motivated crime rose."


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