Urban League’s ‘State of Black America’ report notes rise in violent hate crimes

‘The uptick in police brutality, specifically against Black Americans, is no coincidence,’ the report’s authors wrote

By: - April 22, 2023 6:30 am
Black Lives Matter protesters march outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Sunday, 6/7/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Black Lives Matter protesters march outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Sunday, 6/7/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

By Sherry Stone

This week marked the release of the National Urban League’s annual “State of Black America” report with a special launch event at Morehouse, an historically Black college in Atlanta.

Titled, “Democracy in Peril: Confronting the Threat Within,” the 2023 report says that “hate crimes ballooned in 2021.”

FBI statistics also reveal that hate crimes reached a two-decade high in 2020, and more than half of these crimes (over 60%) were directed at African Americans.

The Attorney General’s Office for Civil Rights also saw an over 70% rise in hate crimes against people of Asian descent — the highest in over a decade.

One example was an attack on a Chinese father and his two children in Texas. The man’s 6-year-old son had his face slashed with a knife by a man who was convicted of targeting the family because of their race and because he blamed them for the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was an increase in hate crimes motivated by the victim’s gender identity. In addition, numerous other acts of hate violence have targeted houses of worship and religious communities.

“Unlawful acts come in many forms — from mass murders, physical assaults, cross-burnings, and attacks on houses of worship, to online harassment and verbal threats,” said Kristen Clarke, the U.S. assistant attorney general for civil rights, who contributed to the report.

“These acts have one thing in common: They terrorize not only individuals and families, but entire communities because of their race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity,” she said.

The 2023 report focuses largely on five areas: The Rise in Violent Hate Crimes Across America; The Threat Within Education; The Threat Within the Political System; Hate Within Law Enforcement and the Military; and a Surge of Divisive Policies.

“The uptick in police brutality, specifically against Black Americans, is no coincidence,” it reads. One example, the murder of 25-year-old jogger Ahmaud Arbery. His death made headlines when he was running on a public street in Brunswick, Ga. when two men men armed with guns got into a truck and chased him with firearms. A third man joined the chase. After Arbery repeatedly and desperately tried to get away, he ran toward the man with the gun and tried to redirect it away from himself. The man fired three times, shooting Arbery through the chest and killing him.

One of the three perpetrators was sentenced to life, plus 10 years in prison; a second, to life, plus seven years in prison; the third man, to 35 years in prison.

Of course, the murder of 10 Black people at the Tops Grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., on July 14, 2022, led to a 27-count indictment from the Justice Department. The perpetrator used a Bushmaster XM rifle and was convicted of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, by willfully causing the death of their victims because of their age and race.

Hate group activity, too, has been a problem, states the report: “Across the nation, white supremacist groups and domestic terror cells have infiltrated law enforcement and our military ranks, posing threat to homeland security and the general public.”

The Urban League said FBI statistics show that white supremacists posed a “persistent threat of lethal violence” that has produced more fatalities than any other category of domestic terrorists since 2000. The FBI warned its agents that white supremacists and government militia groups they investigate often have “active links” to law enforcement.

In the area of education, the Urban League spoke out against the banning of books and restrictions on classroom instruction. “Over the past year, more and more Republican-controlled states have introduced bills that would circumscribe classroom discussion of race, sexuality, and gender, and in some cases, even eliminate AP African-American studies from schools,” the report said.

Another special section of the report called “A Climate in Crisis,” was made jointly with the American Council on Renewable Energy and makes a case for equal economic opportunity and environmental justice.

Also as part of the report is a section about Marc Morial’s 20 years as president and CEO of the National Urban League and shows how his leadership has changed over the last two decades.

Sherry Stone is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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