The Federal Bureau of Investigation has published its annual data on hate crimes, and the good news is that the number of such crimes fell in 2011 to its lowest level since 1994.
Last year there were 6,222 incidents of hate crimes in the United States, involving 7,254 offenses. Now, consider that figure in the context of a country with more than 300 million people, where some 1.2 million violent crimes and 9 million property crimes were reported last year. Crimes based on racial, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious or disability bias were a minuscule proportion of total crime, and they were perpetrated by just 5,731 individuals (less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the population).
Two items in the data caught my eye. Both challenge some common tropes heard in mainstream media.
First, among anti-religious hate crimes, Jews make up the overwhelming number of victims (63.2 percent), but the total number, again, is tiny (936). Anti-Muslim hate crimes are rarer (even though many say that the country is rife with Islamophobia). Anti-Muslim hate-crime victims make up only 12.5 percent, or 185 victims, of the anti-religious hate crimes.
Any crime based on bias is to be deplored, but this country doesn't have either rampant anti-Semitic crime or Islamophobia crime. When the Anti-Defamation League says that "anti-Semitism is still a serious and deeply entrenched problem in America," I have to say bunk, at least according to FBI stats.
The second interesting data point is that hate crimes are not a "white only" problem. While whites accounted for 59 percent of such offenders, they make up about 78 percent of the population. In other words, whites commit most hate crimes, but their numbers are disproportionately low among hate-crime offenders.