The FBI reported last month that 15,136 law enforcement agencies submitted incident reports involving 7,759 criminal incidents motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity in 2020.
That’s the highest number of reported hate crime incidents since 2008, when 7,783 incidents were reported, and it reflects an increase of about 450 incidents from 2019—even though fewer law enforcement agencies reported hate crime incidents to the FBI in 2020 than in previous years.
Hate crime incidents targeting people because of their race make up the largest category by far. Out of more than 10,800 people who reported that they were the victim of a hate crime last year, 61.9% were targeted because of their race, ethnicity, or ancestry, the FBI reports.
Bias against African Americans overwhelmingly comprised the largest category of race-based hate crime incidents, with a total of 56% of race-based hate crimes being motivated by anti-Black bias.
Hate crime incidents targeting people because of their race increased more than any other category between 2019 and 2020, rising from 3,954 to 4,939 incidents. Attacks targeting Black people saw the largest rise, from 1,972 in 2019 to 2,755 in 2020.
The number of attacks against Asian Americans increased from 161 to 274, the FBI data shows.
“These statistics show a rise in hate crimes committed against Black and African-Americans, already the group most often victimized,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Notably, they show a rise in hate crimes committed against members of the Asian-American Pacific Islander community. This also confirms what we have seen and heard through our work and from our partners.”
Hate crimes “instill fear across entire communities,” Garland acknowledged, promising to rededicate the Justice Department to combatting hate crimes and bias-related incidents.
The U.S. has a long history of using racial violence to terrorize entire Black communities. Racial terror lynching of African Americans was a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation well into the 20th century.