The annual release of the FBI’s hate crime statistics report has attracted little attention by the mainstream media in the past few years. The most recent report, however — revealing a rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims and whites in 2016 — has been greeted with more notice than usual by the daily newspapers; even CNN chimed in to highlight the results of the report.
… In the first place, the FBI statistics by themselves do not show the context of the rise in hate crimes and anti-Muslim incidents. What most of the stories about the report neglect to mention is that in 2015, the FBI changed its method of classification. Before then, ethnicity- or nationality-spurred hate crimes were designated as Hispanic or non-Hispanic. The FBI subsequently revised that classification, breaking down hate crimes into a variety of possible categories. As a result, the most recent data is misleading, making the incidents in which Arabs or Muslims were targeted appear to be more numerous than in previous years.
Secondly, the widely cited “20 percent increase” in anti-Muslim hate crimes engenders a false assumption about the actual figures. The total of reported bias incidents of any kind in 2016 was 6,121; of those, 361 were directed at Arabs or Muslims. Although even a single such incident would be one too many, in a country whose population is approximately 325 million – including millions of Arabs and/or Muslims — it is hard to argue that the numbers are indicative of a “wave” of hatred sweeping over the nation, either prior to or since the rise of Trump, even if one accepts the assumption that hate crimes are under-reported.