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Hate crimes in the U.S. have risen. How do we respond?

November 15, 2016 at 6:35 PM EDT
Hate crimes were up 6.8 percent last year, including a 67 percent increase toward Muslim-Americans, according to new FBI statistics. To discuss factors that have led to a surge, Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Rizwan Jaka of All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center and Eddie Glaude of Princeton University.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, as we continue to mourn the loss of Gwen Ifill, we turn to a subject dear to her: how the country can overcome our racial divisions.

Since last week’s elections, there have been increasing reports of hate crimes in communities across the nation. Yesterday, the FBI reported a rise in hate crimes in the U.S. last year. They were up by 6.8 percent overall, more than 5,800 hate crimes, including a dramatic surge against Muslims in this country, 257 reports last year alone. That’s up 67 percent.

Since the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported there have been more than 400 incidents of harassment or intimidation.

President-elect Trump was asked by Lesley Stahl about the rise in reports on “60 Minutes.” That aired Sunday.

DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: I’m very surprised to hear that. I hate to hear that. I mean, I hate to hear that.

LESLEY STAHL: But you do hear it.

DONALD TRUMP: I don’t hear it.

LESLEY STAHL: You’re not seeing this?

DONALD TRUMP: I saw — I saw one or two instances.

LESLEY STAHL: On social media?

DONALD TRUMP: But I think it’s a very small amount. Again, I think it’s…

LESLEY STAHL: Do you want to say anything to those people?

DONALD TRUMP: I would say, don’t do it, that’s terrible, because I’m going to bring this country together.

LESLEY STAHL: They’re harassing Latinos, Muslims.

DONALD TRUMP: I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, stop it. If it — if it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the camera: Stop it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: We explore this with Mark Potok, an expert in extremism at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Eddie Glaude, chair of the Department for African-American Studies at Princeton University. And Rizwan Jaka, he’s chairman of the board at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center.

Mark, you have been tracking these incidents. How have they increased, and what kind of incidents are we seeing?

MARK POTOK, Southern Poverty Law Center: Well, we have seen a real rash mainly of attacks of on people who are thought to be Muslims, but also attacks, or something less than actual hate crimes, kind of yelling and hate incidents, directed at black people, at Latinos, at gay people.

It very much seems like kind of the lid has been ripped off Pandora’s box and virtually every minority out there is a target.


MARK POTOK: We started counting these incidents…

HARI SREENIVASAN: Sorry. Go ahead.

MARK POTOK: … starting yesterday, and we have already counted over 430 of them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Rizwan Jaka, it seems to have affected the Muslim community very acutely, but this isn’t the first time.

RIZWAN JAKA, All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center: No, correct. No, thank you.

Definitely, it’s been a roller coaster of challenges in the past 15 years, since the horrific attack of 9/11. And there has been an increase in the past few years. In 2015, over 75 mosques were attacked. Many people were harassed. Then, this year alone, 53-plus mosques were attacked.

And definitely in recent times, we’re seeing challenges where Muslim women that are wearing the scarf are being taunted or harassed or threatened because of what they’re doing. And so it’s a challenge we have been seeing.

Usually, it increases around presidential cycles. So, in 2011 and ’12, we saw an increase in stereotyping and bigotry. And it’s obviously increased in this past two years as well. And so we’re all concerned, and obviously there’s bigotry across the spectrum, across all demographics, and we’re concerned about it all.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Eddie Glaude, what has this campaign uncovered that perhaps was lying just beneath the surface?

EDDIE GLAUDE, Princeton University: Well, in some ways, the campaign has let the genie out of the bottle.

It’s Trump’s rhetoric. The nature of the campaign, even the slogan “Make America great again” has given license to hate. And in some ways, his election has given license for folks to act on that hate.

And so I think what we have seen — and let me be very clear here. We don’t want to paint all Trump supporters with this broad brush that all Trump supporters are out here engaging in these kind of violent actions.

But what we do know is that there is a certain segment of the American population that has found in Trump, right, an exemplar, found in Trump justification to go out and attack minority populations, and then to put forward an idea of America that is white, an idea of America that is heterosexist — or heterosexual, an idea of America that is decidedly — let me just be very clear — decidedly white in its makeup.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark, while the Trump campaign gets a fair amount of credit or blame for this, how much do global events, especially when it looks like — when it pertains to the attacks on Muslim, how much do global events play into this, in at least the numbers we saw in 2015?

MARK POTOK: I think they without question play into it.

I mean, 2015 was a year of some real atrocities, incredible attacks from the Islamic State, both in Europe, of course, and in the United States. So, you know, people react to those slaughters.

And also there are a whole raft out there of anti-Muslim ideologues who essentially exploit these attacks in order to paint not merely Islamist radicals, but all Muslims as extremists.

At the same time, of course, for half of last year, contributing to this very large jump in hate crimes, according to the FBI, the Trump campaign was in full force, and very active, frankly, in defaming Muslims in general and Islam in particular.

So, I think both things contributed. It’s hard to sort out exactly which is responsible for, you know, the most violence, the most hatred.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Rizwan Jaka, there seems to be a conflation between events that happen overseas and Muslim Americans facing it. What have your community members been telling you? How have you been personally affected?


No, definitely, there’s a lot of stereotyping that occurs. Obviously, as American Muslims, we condemn terrorism, we condemn violent extremism. And it’s unfair that the stereotyping and negative portrayal of the vast majority of the 99.99 percent of American Muslims that are peaceful, law-abiding, and it’s conflated in that way.

And, yes, like, my own wife and daughter, you know, my wife is a fourth-generation American, my daughter is a fifth-generation American. They were wearing the scarf. They were told to go back home because of what they’re wearing.

And we’re patriotic Americans. American Muslims have been here since before this country was founded. Thirty percent of enslaved Africans were Muslim. The American Muslim population is loyal Americans. And they are obviously stereotyped.

And, actually, American Muslims are partners in national security. And we’re a part of the solution. And we need to make sure that it’s not conflated and that we need to understand that actually, statistically speaking, the overwhelming majority of terrorism is done by non-Muslims.

And if you look at the amount of murders a year, 16,000 murders a year, you know, that’s done by non-Muslims. And so that’s something that people need to understand, that, yes,terrorism is something we need to deal with, but it’s being — stigmatizing the Muslim community because of the perceptions and stereotypes portrayed through presidential election cycles and through various portrayals in the media.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark, why is it so hard to prosecute these hate crimes, to get convictions?

MARK POTOK: Well, hate crimes in general are difficult to prosecute because you are not merely trying to prove that someone did something, someone punched someone else in the face or something along those lines.

You are trying to show why. What was the motivation of that person at the time of the attack? And that is often very difficult to get to. You know, sometimes, the cases are crystal clear. Someone decides they hate black people. They talk about it and they kill the first black person that crosses their path.

But much more often, the motives are tangled up. It becomes unclear whether it’s really a bar fight over a girlfriend, if somebody started to use ethnic slurs during that fight. You know, what part does hate really play in it? So, ultimately, it’s a jury question.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Eddie Glaude, I want to ask, what’s the step forward here, because, as you point out, it’s not just by race, it’s not just by religion or general or sexual preference. There seems to be an underlying connection between patriotism and otherness.


I think, first, we need to understand the problem. I think many people read the election of Donald Trump as a kind of triumph, when, in fact, I think it’s an indication of a crisis, that in some ways the demographic shifts in the country have created all sorts of anxieties, as well as the kind of bankruptcy of an economic philosophy that’s left — that’s really eviscerated workers, black, white, brown, throughout the country.

And so, when you have moments of crisis, communities often consolidate themselves by scapegoating others. And usually that scapegoating, at least in the context of the United States, has taken violent form. And so not only are people scapegoating Muslims, African-Americans LGBTQ communities, right?

They’re trying — in doing so, they’re trying to draw the boundaries of a community that’s in some ways in crisis. So, how do we respond to it? Well, we respond to it through the political process. We respond to it by organizing, by in some ways making clear our principled commitment to democracy.

And that’s going to be messy. It’s going to require some hard arguments, with the understanding that some folks are going to disagree with us. It’s going to require some protests. It’s going to require civil disobedience. It’s going to require actions at the polls. It’s going to require actions in our community.

So, in other words, what we need to do is kind of organize ourselves to put forward a vision of America that runs counter to what we’re seeing now. And that’s going to be hard. It’s going to be difficult, and it’s not going to be easy. But we have to do it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Rizwan Jaka, what’s your community doing in terms of both protecting your own rights and at the same time making sure that you’re working with law enforcement and you’re responsible members of your own community?

RIZWAN JAKA: Yes, no, thank you.

And, actually, we work very closely with law enforcement, local, regional and national. We work with the FBI. And we try to make sure that the community is educated on civil rights and how to counter hate crimes and how to prevent hate crimes as well.

And so we’re focused on that educational aspect, you know, for the community. We work very closely with our interfaith partners in the Jewish community, Christian community, Hindu community, Sikh community, and all faith communities, working together with our African-American and Hispanic and Asian partners, so that we can, as alliances, you know, counter the prejudices that are affecting everyone.

There was a KKK flag on a truck just down from our mosque the other day, and they were intimidating an African-American lady. There have been anti-Semitic attacks in the area. There have been anti-Muslim attacks in the area.

And so we have to stand together. And we are working together in interfaith partnerships to counter these prejudices and reach out. We have the reach out to those that might have maybe the perceptions. We need to reach out to Trump supporters. And, you know, we call on our government officials to visit mosques, visit temples, so that we can work together and unite and heal, rather than divide.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Rizwan Jaka, Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Eddie Glaude from Princeton, thank you all.

RIZWAN JAKA: Thank you.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Thank you.