Hate Crimes, Plus a Question for US Senate Candidate Kamala Harris

Authored by Mike Kimel

Let’s start with the lede: from what I can tell, according to Kamala Harris (California State Attorney General and candidate for the US Congress), the ISIS-inspired massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino was not a hate crime.  

And now, the story, with some meandering around interesting facts.  The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 2015 Hate Crime REPORT was just released.  

One interesting passage in the report is this:

The great majority of African Americans and Latino/as in Los Angeles County co-exist peacefully and are not involved in ongoing racial conflict. However, for many years this report has documented that most hate crimes targeting African Americans are committed by Latino/as and vice versa. This is particularly true in neighborhoods that have undergone rapid demographic shifts from being primarily black to majority Latino/a. The other factor driving this phenomenon is the large number of Latino/a street gangs which have ties to the Mexican Mafia, the largest and most violent prison-based gang. The Mexican Mafia has been feuding with black inmates for decades and has encouraged their affiliated street gangs to drive African Americans out of their neighborhoods.

Strictly from a data point of view, I wonder how many of the crimes described in the above paragraph are just turf wars.  Are these really any different from when two X gangs go at it, with X being any particular racial or ethnic group?

Another interesting factette:

Anti-Jewish crimes were followed by those targeting Muslims (19%), Christians (5%), Jehovah’s Witnesses (3%) and Catholics (2%). This represented a large increase in the number of anti-Muslim crimes, from to 3 to 19. As a percentage of all religious crimes, anti-Muslim crimes jumped from 4% to 19%. Four of these took place after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that claimed the lives of 130 people and seriously wounded nearly 100 more. There were also 9 anti-Muslim/Middle Eastern crimes that occurred following the December 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino in which a Muslim couple attacked a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health holiday party killing 14 employees and seriously wounding 22.

Fortunately, the majority of those crimes took the form of vandalism, intimidation and disorderly conduct.  There were also 8 simple assaults and 4 aggravated assaults which are more serious, and luckily, no murders.  

With that said, two thoughts.  First, there is little information on the perps of anti-religious hate crimes, but one blurb says:

A Middle Eastern male entered a synagogue and shouted, “I’m going to kill all Jews”. The suspect attempted to use a stun gun to harm one of the members.

In keeping with explanation of anti-Black and anti-Latino crimes quoted above, it would have been interesting to know whether anti-Jewish or other anti-religious crimes are often perpetrated by individuals who can be described as “Middle Eastern.”   

My second thought also inolved the “Middle Eastern” angle.    I thought it would be interesting to see how the San Bernardino massacre was treated in official reports on hate crimes.  Of course, San Bernardino is not in Los Angeles County, so I went to the Hate Crime in California put out by California State Attorney General Kamala Harris.

So there’s no mistake in what information is reported, I quote:

Hate Crime in California, 2015 reports statistics on hate crimes that occurred in California during 2015. These statistics include the number of hate crime events, hate crime offenses, victims of hate crimes, and suspects of hate crimes. This report also provides statistics from district and elected city attorneys on the number of hate crime cases referred to prosecutors, the number of cases filed in court, and the disposition of those cases.

Also, in the appendix, we learn:

California Penal Code section 422.55 defines a hate crime as “a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim: (1) disability, (2) gender, (3) nationality, (4) race or ethnicity, (5) religion, (6) sexual orientation, (7) association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.”

Now, table 6 on page 17 lists hate crime “events,” “offenses,” victims and suspects by jurisdictions, including those that occurred in the city of San Bernardino.  Those numbers are, respectively, 4, 5, 4, and 4.  Additionally, we learn from Table 2 that a total of three of the Hate Crimes in the state of California in 2015 were hate crimes.  So it is safe to assume that the San Bernardino massacre does not qualify for inclusion in the report.  Since it also was too significant to ignore or simply misplace, one can only conclude that it wasn’t a hate crime according to the authors of the report.

Kamala Harris, whose name appears on the front cover of this report, is running for the US Senate.  I wish someone would ask her why 14 people being killed by radicalized, ISIS inspired individuals engaging in what they would call jihad doesn’t qualify as a hate crime.