This piece originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman.

On January 6, raw hate was on full display in the U.S. Capitol. Images of an oversized Confederate flag and nooses in the rotunda will not soon be forgotten; photos of insurrectionists wearing shirts emblazoned with the words Camp Auschwitz or 6MWE ("6 million wasn’t enough") sent chills across the Jewish community. The truth that the United States has a hatred problem has perhaps never been more self-evident.

The numbers confirm this sobering reality. This past November, the FBI released its annual Hate Crimes Statistics report for the previous year. Over 7,300 hate crimes were reported in 2019, an increase of nearly 200 over 2018. At just over 60%, Jews were the most frequent target of religiously-based hate crimes. Anti-Black bias accounted for 48.5% of hate crimes motivated by racial or ethnic bias. Further, 2019 was the worst year of hate-motivated murders (51) in the 25 years that these statistics have been published by the FBI.

Unfortunately, the data shared by the FBI does not tell the full story. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the real number of hate crime incidents per year is likely closer to 250,000. This means less than 3% of hate crime incidents each year are reported to the FBI. In 2019, 72 cities with a population greater than 100,000 either reported zero hate crimes or failed to report at all. While the FBI is legally required to make an annual report, submissions from local law enforcement agencies are voluntary.

Twelve of the 71 cities on the list, or nearly 17%, are in Texas. These municipalities include include Round Rock, Killeen, Midland, Plano and Allen. Recently, while meeting with Rep. Colin Allred, D-Richardson, I mentioned this fact, which came as a surprise. I went on to explain that the city of Richardson had been on that list the prior year, but in 2019 reported only a single hate crime. Allred noted that based on what he had heard from constituents there were undoubtedly more.

The troubling statistic came up during our discussion about the Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act, legislation that my organization, American Jewish Committee, has been a staunch advocate for in partnership with our Muslim, Black, Latino and other diverse coalition partners. This important legislation, when enacted, would enhance hate crime reporting through the Department of Justice (DOJ) by providing federal grants for law enforcement training, the launching of hate crime reporting hotlines, resources to enhance connections between law enforcement and affected communities, and public forums to provide education on hate crimes. State or local governments receiving these grants would be required to provide the DOJ with data on hate crimes committed within their jurisdictions.

The No Hate Act would also provide for additional penalties for those convicted under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. These might include service to or education about the communities impacted by the crime. None of the measures enacted by this bill would require new federal expenditures. Existing resources would fund these grants.

Since nearly one-in-five large cities that do not report or claim zero hate crimes are in Texas, it would be both meaningful and appropriate for our state to play a leadership role in passing legislation to increase reporting accuracy. Mandatory reporting must happen in concert with increased education among the law enforcement and general communities. The Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act will provide enhanced community infrastructure and the training that is needed.

This will have the impact of increased understanding of what constitutes a hate crime, more effective outreach to affected communities, and increased reporting. The only way to effectively deal with the issue of hate is to truly understand the scope of the problem.

A number of Texans led when this bill was included in the Heroes Act last spring, which passed the House but languished in the Senate. Representative Pete Olson introduced it, and co-sponsors included Van Taylor, Will Hurd, Sheila Jackson Lee, Veronica Escobar and Al Green.

Passing this legislation in the 117th Congress will provide essential tools that would clarify the picture of hate in our state and around the country.

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