Help us investigate the true extent of intolerance in America

Wednesday , June 07, 2017 - 4:30 AM8 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

The Standard-Examiner and dozens of news organizations across the United States are joining with ProPublica to create a database of hate crimes.

In a time of increasing racial and religious tension, the data will help journalists, researchers and civil rights groups investigate the extent of American intolerance.

  • RELATED: “Have you experienced a hate crime? Tell us your story for a national project”

We cannot address hatred until we begin to understand it.

But why the need for a national project? After all, the FBI issues a report on hate crime statistics annually. Don’t those surveys give us any insight?

In a word, no.

For one thing, the data isn’t reported in real time. The most recent FBI report covers 2015. It came out Nov. 14, 2016 — nearly a week after Donald Trump’s election as president.

By that point, Trump had spent more than a year calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants, condemning Mexican “rapists and criminals” in the United States and promising to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Hate crimes against Muslims increased 67 percent in 2015, the FBI reported. What happened in 2016 and early 2017 is anybody’s guess.

That’s not just because the FBI report is outdated. It’s because the data is essentially worthless.

When more than 3,000 law state and local law enforcement agencies fail to report hate crimes to the FBI for its annual survey, as reported by ProPublica, it’s impossible to fully understand the effects of prejudice in America.

James Comey acknowledged the problem when he released the FBI’s 2015 report.

“We need to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crimes to fully understand what is happening in our communities and how to stop it,” he said.

Trump fired Comey as FBI director May 9.

ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom, picked up Comey’s mission by assembling a coalition of nearly 70 news organizations, four civil rights groups and five universities for “Documenting Hate.”

“We will for the first time be able to take a rigorous look at hate crimes in America – combining data analysis, social media newsgathering, and ambitious investigative storytelling,” ProPublica said.

If you’ve been the victim of a hate crime, you can tell your story by visiting visuals.standard.net.

Then, as others join you, we can begin to investigate the true cost of American intolerance.

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