Some progress is being made towards addressing it, but there is more work to be done
Since 1979, the Anti-Defamation League has been auditing antisemitic incidents in the United States. According to its latest report, released last week, 2019 saw a 12 percent rise over the previous year. Inside that number was a massive 56 percent jump in assaults. These numbers horrify, but they only tell part of the story.
Capturing data isn’t easy. As I noted in a blog last year, Why anti-Semitism in America warrants attention, the data that gets the most attention – and is significantly underreported – comes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. But there is a problem with that. While the Attorney General is mandated by the 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act to collect data about hate crimes and the FBI has a database to track it, nothing mandates all police departments to report it. Some do, some don’t. As I noted in a later blog, Digging into data to better understand hate, “Pro Publica found that many police departments are not working hard to report data.” In fact, “88% of [departments that do submit data] reported having absolutely no hate crimes at all.” So it is important that the ADL tallies what it can and works with groups where it can, but their data may not carry as much weight in governmental decisions as that captured through government channels.
Data matters. So does deciding how to deal with the problem itself.
The two aforementioned blogs were a byproduct of a policy paper I wrote for a class and presented at a graduate student panel at the 2019 Georgia Political Science Association’s annual meeting (I am currently pursuing dual master’s degrees in public administration and integrated global communication). In addition to delving into what we know about hate crimes and specifically antisemitic ones, the paper looked at what could be done and posited that prevention, identification and intervention were key.
On two of these fronts, some progress has been made this past week on two fronts.
Among those initiatives that target prevention via education is the Federal Never Again Education Act, which just passed the Senate unanimously. It now provides for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to develop and make available resources, including a centralized database of curriculum materials. It may also offer teacher training. At the time I wrote the paper, the bill introduced by senators focused more on making grant money available to those teachers who wanted to develop teaching material. Now, the bill which awaits the president’s signature will offer resources to a much wider swath of educators. Without a federal mandate to teach this content and only eleven states requiring Holocaust education, we can only hope that school districts and school systems take advantage of what the Never Again Education Act will make available. I did not see a provision in the act requiring the Holocaust Museum to collect or share data on how many or which schools use their materials or attend their workshops.
Here in Georgia, one of only four states without a hate crime law on the books, there is a renewed interest in getting a hate law passed, due to the coldblooded murder of jogger Ahmaud Aubrey. Last year, a hate crimes bill passed the House but was then stuck in the Senate. While there is now more legislative support for passing it as worded now, there are still some Senators who won’t pass it as it stands. #HateFreeGA offers a website for Georgians to easily email their legislators and let them know they want it passed now.
The Georgia bill, like that in eighteen states and territories, addresses increased sentences only. This is important to note. There is an even larger number of states and territories which not only do that, but their laws also require reporting the data. As I pointed out in Digging into data to better understand hate, knowing the scope of the problem really, really matters. Data allows us the ability to plan how to prevent.
Hopefully, teachers, school and districts across the nation will thoughtfully take advantage of the resources that the Never Again Education Act will make available. And hopefully the Georgia law will pass and hopefully police departments on their own will decide to be trained on how to better identify hate crimes and to collect data and share it.
I look at the ADL’s data and am justifiably concerned. I look at the progress made and am glad to see it. But we must all admit, hope has never been a strategy and there is still much work to be done.