We live in an outrage culture fueled by President Trump and the anonymous nature of social media, which essentially allows anyone to say anything they want. But the hate isn’t relegated to the internet.
We saw this tragic reality most recently with the white nationalist from North Texas shooting up a Walmart in El Paso earlier this year.
And hate appears to be rising in Texas. New data from the FBI show that hate crimes in Texas more than doubled last year. Law enforcement reported more than 450 such crimes last year compared to 190 in 2017. Most were motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry, both in Texas and nationwide. Religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity are also classified as hate crimes.
Experts have repeatedly warned that the president’s rhetoric is contributing to hate crimes.
“We see a correlation around the time of statements of political leaders and fluctuations in hate crimes,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino. “Could there be other intervening causes? Yes. But it’s certainly a significant correlation that can’t be ignored.
Hate crimes are underreported in Texas, particularly in the Houston/Harris County area. Currently, state and local law enforcement agencies are not required to submit hate crime statistics to the FBI. Federal authorities thus have to rely on law enforcement voluntarily submitting data.
In the wake of the El Paso attack, Gov. Greg Abbott, who sent out an alarmist anti-immigrant letter to supporters the day before the deadly shooting, vowed to combat the problem of white nationalism. He has created a task force to combat extremism, but it’s unclear what if any concrete actions the task force has undertaken. In fact, Abbott’s mostly-white task force includes a number of anti-immigrant hardliners.
In many cases, Texas Republicans have fanned the flames of hate and discirmination rather than attempt to quell them. In just the past year, a member of the Texas Republican Party’s platform committee declared himself to be a white nationalist on facebook, the Tarrant County Republican Party held a vote on whether to remove its vice-chairman because he’s a Muslim, and the Secretary of State attempted to purge thousands of latinos from voter rolls.
Elected leaders set the tone. Rank racism from the top five those at the bottom permission to, well, keep hate alive. And even act on it.
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