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Hate crimes jump, bias persists

by BAR Editorial Board

It's not surprising that the number of hate crimes in the state jumped more than 11 percent in 2016. The year saw a spike in crimes based on a victim's race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, according to FBI statistics, which are from the Uniform Crime Reporting system, which gathers data from agencies that volunteer their information. Haters are emboldened when they see their presidential candidate disparage minorities and immigrants; they feel even more so now that Donald Trump is in the Oval Office. Most of the reported hate crimes in San Francisco indicated victims were targeted because of their sexual orientation. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there were 60 more hate crimes last year than in 2015 in the Bay Area's nine counties, with the most reported in Alameda, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties.

Nationally, in 2016, law enforcement agencies reported 1,218 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias, according to the FBI report. The vast majority, 62.8 percent, was prompted by anti-gay (male) bias, while 21.5 percent were prompted by anti-LGBT bias. There were 130 reports of incidents based on gender identity. Of those, 111 were anti-transgender and 19 were anti-gender nonconforming.

Locally, gay San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy has called for a hearing "immediately" about hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.

For 2016, San Francisco police reported 16 hate crime events based on the victims' sexual orientation or gender noncomformity. For 2015, police reported 12 hate crime events that were based on the victims' sexual orientation or gender noncomformity.

"Here in San Francisco, the increase came from attacks on our LGBT community," he said at a recent board meeting, referencing the recent FBI report. "The Trump administration has enflamed tensions and we are at risk. We have to stand up to the Trump administration, to the white supremacists and the Nazis."

As the board's only out member, Sheehy said he wants to hear from city departments about the issue.

We urge Sheehy to hold that hearing soon.

But hate crimes aren't the only thing the LGBTQ community has to endure. On the heels of the FBI report is a new survey of LGBTQ adults that was conducted for National Public Radio by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Titled "Discrimination in America," pollsters surveyed 3,453 adults age 18 or older and included nationally representative samples of African-American, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, whites, men, women, and LGBTQs. The results for the 489 LGBTQ adults surveyed were stark.

"Overall, LGBTQ Americans report significant personal experiences of discrimination, across many areas of life," the report's executive summary states. A majority of all LGBTQ people have experienced slurs (57 percent) and insensitive or offensive comments (53 percent) about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Strikingly, 57 percent reported that they, or an LGBTQ friend or family member, have been threatened or non-sexually harassed, been sexually harassed (51 percent), or experienced violence (51 percent) because of their sexuality or gender identity. And, after years of fighting over bathroom rights in jurisdictions across the country, the report states that 34 percent of LGBTQ people surveyed said they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have been verbally harassed in the bathroom or been told or asked if they were using the wrong restroom.

The survey shows that LGBTQ people of color are twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to have been personally discriminated against because of who they are when applying for jobs and when interacting with police. They are six times more likely to say they have avoided calling the police (30 percent) due to concern for anti-LGBTQ discrimination, compared to white LGBTQs (5 percent).

That's a big problem. Law enforcement often can't investigate without a report. These reports are critical in that they provide a paper trail for the victims and for police agencies, especially those that report crimes to the FBI.

The report states that discrimination is a prominent and critically important matter in American life and throughout the country's history. The issue is how to lessen bias in our society. That certainly won't happen while Trump is in office. His appointees have spent their first year in the administration minimizing LGBTQs, pretending we don't exist, and attempting to erase us from society.

As the holiday season begins, LGBTQ people must recommit to standing up for themselves and their friends. Instead of avoiding politics with family members, we need to boldly state that mistreating us, misgendering us, discriminating against us, and attacking us is not OK. We need to continue seeking redress in the courts, like the trans people suing the administration over Trump's trans military ban. We need to continue reporting hate crimes against us. Statistics like those in the FBI's hate crime report and NPR's examination of discrimination are evidence that there is a lot of hate out there. We can say, "Love wins," but a more apt strategy is to continue educating those who are ignorant, and fighting for equality that we all deserve.


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