According to a 2014 hate crime statistics report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In the wake of last weekend's massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, it is important to remember that the shooter set out to kill individuals who identify as LGBT. Violent hate crimes against LGBT people around the world are far from rare. In fact, a new analysis of data gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation by the New York Times confirms what many LGBT activists have been saying for years: people in their community are targets of violent hate crimes more often than any other minority.
The analysis was undertaken by the New York Times this past week and shows that of 5,462 “single-bias incidents” (hate crimes with a single motivation) studied by the FBI, 1,115 were motivated by a bias against a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Of these incidents, 56% targeted gay men specifically.
Though the numbers are staggering, they don’t tell the whole story. Hate crime data is difficult to collect as it relies exclusively on self-reporting. This proves challenging as victims might choose not to report an attack as a hate crime because of where they live (the rural South, for example) or because they don’t want to be outed to their families. Further, authorities in notoriously anti-LGBT communities have been shown to under-report these crimes. This means that, in all likelihood, the number of hate crimes committed against LGBT individuals is higher than the FBI is able to report.
In addition to the challenge of collecting raw hate crime data, definitions of what constitute a hate crime can vary wildly from state to state, a fact Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, pointed out in an interview on PBS Newshour. This variance, he suggests, not only gets in the way of being able to fully assess nationwide trends but often leads to politicians confounding hate crimes with acts of terrorism.
“It can happen in private with no notice at all," says Potok. "So it’s not the kind of crime that is carried out in order to send a message to thousands of people, as terrorist crimes are, or to change the way an entire community acts.”
Describing a hate crime as an act of terrorism (as many politicians were wont to do in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre) downplays the role that a specific group’s identity played in the crime. This erasure halts progress and redirects the conversation away from the very real and horrific roots of the atrocity, in this case that the men and women murdered at Pulse were specifically targeted for being members of the LGBT Latinx community.
Though the mass shooting at Orlando was a hate crime played out on a massive scale, the report from the Times throws a spotlight on the hard truth that it was not an isolated incident. As the LGBT community, and country as a whole, continue to process and mourn for the tragic loss of life at Pulse nightclub, it is vital to remember that LGBT individuals, especially those who exist at the intersection of other persecuted identities, are and will continue to be among some of the most at risk for violence in this country.
h/t: Smithsonian Mag & NewNowNext