What Makes African Americans most Vulnerable to Hate Crimes?

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What creates the motivates for people to carry out the crimes? Considering this question, it is important to look into the history and find the origin of where the motive comes from to these racial hate crimes, but also looking at the current trends which help us understand and make connections as to why they are still being carried out.

Our societies have been drastically changing, including the attitudes and action of individuals ever since the 2016 election. Reported in 2016, an outstanding 7,509 individuals were victims of a hate crime due to a race or sexuality related motives (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2018). Even more notable is that since 2016, in a years time, there was a 17% increase in the amount of hate crimes occurring into the year 2018 (Romero, 2018). Of these significant number of individuals who were impacted, 28% of the victims were African Americans, showing that the numbers are only increasing for them (Ross, 2018).

Hate crimes against African American men and women is a problem due to the biased motives of the perpetrator and will continue to be a problem due to factors such as our unjust societies to the simplest reasons that they are unreported.

What makes the idea of hate crimes so important in today's society is that they have widespread impacts on people. Not only do such hate crimes directly affect the victim in the situation, but they also can contribute to a change in societies behaviors, or even more worldwide. In addition to their behaviors, it more than likely contributes to people's thoughts. Seen in a study at a university which studied the impacts of hate crimes on others, it creates anger, anxiety and most importantly fear in people around the world (Brown, Walters and Paterson, 2018). Specifically, hate crimes in aims of African Americans is even more important due to the fact that they are the most targeted race. Quite obviously, this creates an overwhelming amount of fear that they can not control due to the unpredictable surprise of the situations.

Literature Review

Looking at data and evidence in the media, hate crimes had been on the rise since the terrorism attack on 9/11; however, they then began to decrease following the event (Farivar, 2018). Within the past two years since the 2016 presidential election though, hate crimes have been on a continuous rise again against many factors like race, sexuality and religion (Coates, Ferber and Brunsma 2018). Although hate crimes are a large issue that affects all races, genders, religions and so on, it is shown through observations and reports that African Americans are the most targeted group of people (Brown, Byington and Capps, 2018).

The origin of hate crimes to African Americans is not out of random hatred but dates back to the times of slavery where it all began. As we progress from history into present time, the severity of hate crimes is not backing down and will not move in the direction of improvement because of the current political situations our country is standing in (History 2018). Following the latest presidential election in 2016, such policies and campaigns have almost encouraged people of other races to express their own beliefs more freely, making them feel more comfortable with expressing and carrying out their racial discriminations and beliefs (Farivar, 2018).

Curious as to what makes African Americans most vulnerable to hate crimes and what creates the motivates for people to carry them out, reported statistics and studies from the FBI and news reports on the current position of African Americans in hate crime help to understand what causes these violent crimes (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2018). This specific question is very relevant currently being that there are numerous reported hate crimes which have even been publicized worldwide. The beating of Matthew Shepard, killing of James Byrd Jr., shooting in the Charleston church and many others, which are the ones that are actually reported. Numerous hate crimes go unknown or are just simply not reported, which is important to know when thinking about how large the numbers could possibly get for African American victims of hate crimes.


Looking into the historic context of hate crimes against African Americans, it suggests that the origin of hate crimes for this race in particular comes from the times of slavery. Dating all the way back to 1619 when African American slaves were brought back into the British colony, this can account for the start of discrimination against races, but especially African Americans (History 2018). Being that slavery was illegal and unconstitutional, many efforts were many to contribute to the ending of slavery; however, in attempt to end it, it only lead into the act of hate crimes (Levin 2002).

From the years 1995 to 2015, hate crimes had been on a steady decrease from nearly 6,000 reported hate crimes to only 2,201; however, ever since 2016, these types of crimes have been on the increase in the United States (Coates, Ferber and Brunsma 2018). From 2016 to 2017, there was a 17% increase in the amount of hate crimes 7,175 reported incidents. Specifically, from 2016 to 2017, the increase of African American hate crimes rose by 16% just for that specific race (Romero 2018). Many things can account for the rise in hate crimes like diversifying communities and little exposure to this diversity but one major factor was the election in 2016. Prior to the election in regards to anti-black hate crimes, they averaged about four to five a day. Following the election, it was observed that was an outstanding 77% change in the amount of hate crimes happening per day, moving up to around eight specific cases. In regards to all hate crimes the day after the 2016 election which includes anti-black, white, muslim, and hispanic, there was an extreme increase that showed a 92% change in the daily number of hate crimes in total (Levin, Nolan and Reitzel 2018).

The significance of hate crimes is not nearly as recognized as it should be and that can be accounted for through numerous reasons; however, one main reason is that the crimes are not reported to the police. Of all hate crimes that occured between the years of 2011 and 2015, only 54% were reported to the police and of the 54%, only 4% resulted in an arrest. Some common reasons that these were not reported to the police was that they wouldn't or couldn't help, it was not important enough or that most commonly, the incident was handled in a different way (Ovc.ncjrs.gov 2018). When looking at the statistics of these incidents, we are aware that the majority of hate crimes fall into aims of African Americans, specifically seen in 2016 when African Americans were the most common group for hate crimes (Romero 2018). When comparing the rising number of incidents, it is evident that African American hate crimes are only increasing with time.

Most importantly, the hate crimes against African Americans are creating fear and affecting the entire population. Mentioned in an interview with NBC, Koritha Mitchell stated that, One of the things that is amazing about black experiences in America is that the country wants to at once send you very clear messages that you don't belong.(Ross, 2018). This precisely shows the way in which African Americans are marginalized and treated differently through the societally constructed biases. Seen in a different study, students helped to show that hate crimes occur all around our world. The University of Sussex investigated hate crimes and the impact of the surrounding communities. They found that hate crimes threat similar groups and identities of the targeted victim indirectly, proposing the idea that they are not accepted in the community (Paterson et al. 2018). For instance, imagine going to school and there was a recurring trend of hate crimes against people of your same race. Would this affect the way you function on a day to day basis, constantly under the worry if something will happen to you? This is such a simple example of what people in communities feel indirectly from a recent hate crime that took place and is happening all over the world.


What makes hate crimes so interesting is they are targeted at many different groups and are formed off of people's own biases and preconceived notions; however, what we focused on here was the hate crimes against African Americans and what makes them stand out from hate crimes targeted at other groups. What makes African Americans more targeted and vulnerable to hate crimes is not a recent thing, as we saw it dates all the way back to the 1600's in the time of slavery. The origin of this problem has increasingly intensified as years progress and spiked ever since the election in 2016. What can account for this change? Well, there are many things that contribute to this such as the way in which police handle these situations, the diversifying of our communities but especially peoples reactions and created fear they are experiencing from indirect crimes.

Through research, it is evident that there is a rapid increase in the amount of hate crimes occurring; however, there are no real solutions or even propositions as to what can help reduce the violence happening not only against African Americans but other groups being targeted like religions, sexualities and genders. In aims to help out these problems, the world would be better off trying to prevent such hate crimes from starting up rather than putting all effort into stopping the current ones from happening. While it is important to still keep in mind there needs to be safety and enforcement precautions against existing hate crimes, a possible good way to prevent these would be to simply educate people and help raise awareness of the problems happening. Seen in many sources, one reason hate crimes are not under control is because the majority of them are unreported, and with an increase in reports, we can bring to people's attention that this is a significant issue and there is really something we can do about it. Other sources suggest that a possible way to work towards this goal is working on elimination of segregation. The idea that people like to live with their own kind is a very understanding and common idea; however, it could help to take a step in the right direction (Smithsimon, 2018). One last idea in aims to slow down or even stop the rate of hate crimes against African Americans is the continuation of Black lives matter. While most people contemplate the use of the phrase Black lives matter due to the fact that they think it is neglecting all other races, this subject is a perfect example of why it is used. The phrase does not suggest that other lives do not matter, but we need to be focusing on Black lives because that is what needs our attention right now.

While there are no real set in stone answers to this controversy, it is interesting to think about the types of education that could be provided to help people understand what is going on. Another thing to think about and further research would be, how do the perpetrators obtain their biases and/or hatreds? Are they preconceived from their upbringings? Or are they influenced through social media, television and other publicity? We may never know what pushes people into these absurd behaviors, but it is a given that as an individual in a community, people can do their best to promote positive behaviors to make others feel safe.

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What Makes African Americans Most Vulnerable to Hate Crimes?. (2020, Mar 06). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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