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Despite false reports and white skepticism, hate still remains in U.S.

America remains a hub for hate, and maybe it is time we start acknowledging it

Written By Kaisha Jantsch, For The Globe

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Something remarkably rare happened at the end of this past January. Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollet, who is African-American and gay, filed a false hate crime report regarding an attack, it now seems, he orchestrated. His doing so makes the real victims of hate crime seem less legitimate and emboldens Americans who claim there isn’t a problem with hate in their nation, while there absolutely is.   

The level of recorded hate in America has never been higher.

A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), released February 20, reveals a sharp rise in the number of hate groups in the U.S. In its annual tracking of these groups, the SPLC found a record 1,020 of them, marking a 30 percent increase from the 714 hate-based groups the organization found in 2015.

The SPLC’s findings mirror those of the Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI). In its annual release of hate crime statistics, the FBI reported 5,850 hate crimes instances in 2015. In 2016, it reported 6,063 instances, and in 2017, 7,106 instances. That’s an 18 percent increase in three years. Thus, a pattern is clear.

Hate crimes are trending upward in America. 

Yet, in a recent column for Townhall.com, John Hawkins, an opinion contributor for the site, claims that the majority of hate crimes are hoaxes. Dennis Prager, a well-known conservative mouthpiece, in a column for the same publication says, “There is little racism in America.” In other words, these two white columnists claim not to find prejudice-driven violence and discrimination in the U.S.

Hawkins and Prager make this claim in spite of the fact that 50.7 percent of hate crime offenders are white, and 58.1 percent of hate crimes are motivated by race. They make them despite the fact that 15.9 percent of those same crimes are motivated by sexual orientation, according to the FBI. Despite the 2015 murder of nine black worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Despite the 2016 arson of the historically black, Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi and the words “Vote Trump” spray painted on its remains. Despite the mass shooting in the summer of 2016 at Pulse nightclub, a popular gay hangout, in Orlando, Florida that left 49 dead. Despite the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and Heather Heyer’s resulting death in the Summer of 2017.

Despite the seven pipe bombs sent by a right-wing, pro-Trump, anti-immigrant extremist to prominent Democrats in October of last year. And despite the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, right here in Pittsburgh, that took the souls of eleven Jewish people, just months ago.

Despite all of this, they, and others like them, openly deny hate. How can that be?

Certainly, there are many reasons, including conditioning by their culture and upbringing, but one of the more significant among those is the string of doubt that men like Jussie Smollett pull at in the minds of so many Americans when they cry wolf with hate crime hoaxes.

False reporting of hate crimes is remarkably uncommon. According to Audria D. S. Burch of The New York Times in her Feb. 22 article, “Hate Crime Hoaxes Are Rare, but Can Be ‘Devastating,’” though hoaxes are not formally tracked, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that, “of an estimated 21,000 hate crime cases between 2016 and 2018, fewer than 50 reports were found to be false.” Furthermore, “The center believes that less than one percent of all reported hate crimes are false.”

Unfortunately, however, even if they are few, acts like Smollett’s have tremendous power. But so does truth.

The truth is, even if Smollett’s hoax has you believing otherwise, hate is a problem in America. Don’t deny that truth.

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