Hate Crimes Examined

USF and SUNY-Albany researchers explored the post-9/11 spike in hate crimes, but found some curious results.


Special to USF.edu News


TAMPA. Fla. (Feb. 1, 2011) – In the weeks and months following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, hate crimes against Arab and Muslim-Americans spiked. However, hate crimes against other groups decreased during this time, says a newly published article authored by researchers at the University of South Florida and the State University of New York at Albany.


"Hate Crimes against Arabs and Muslims in Post-9/11 America," appearing in the February issue of Social Problems, reveals that, concurrent to the dramatic rise in hate crimes against Arab and Muslim-Americans in the wake of 9/11, the incidence of hate crimes against blacks, whites, Asians, and Latinos fell.


The team of sociologists, led by USF Associate Professor James Cavendish and doctoral student Ilir Disha and associate professor Ryan King from SUNY-Albany conclude that "9/11 created a climate in which many Americans felt united against a 'new enemy' and in which acts of hatred against Arabs and Muslims became 'normalized' behaviors."


The researchers made ample use of hate-crime statistics from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report (UCR) program, and to an important but lesser degree from U.S. Census demographic variables, Arab and Muslim advocacy groups' measures, and county indicators of political affiliation obtained from Polidata.


The study also reveals that in the aftermath of 9/11 Arab and Muslim-Americans were at greatest risk of victimization in U.S. counties where their proportion of the population was very small while the proportion of the population that was white was very large. The authors argue that this is a case where "the small minority group is visible, has little protection, and is thus highly vulnerable."


According to Cavendish, a couple of different theories might explain why Arab and Muslim Americans have higher rates of victimization in counties where their population proportions are small and whites’ population proportions are large. One theory, which the authors present in their article, argues that when a minority group represents an extremely small percentage of the population, the majority group may feel like it can commit acts of violence without fear of the minority group mobilizing or retaliating against it.  The minority group, it is believed, is simply too small to pose a threat to those members of the majority who are inclined to commit acts of violence. 

The authors criticize the lack of an "Arab" category in the nation's hate-crime reporting mechanisms, which, they argue, is a major obstacle in studying hate crimes against Arab Americans in the wake of 9/11. While Muslims are covered by the racial, ethnic and religious categories established by the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, hate crimes against Arabs are likely to be assigned to the "other ethnicity" category.


The full report, Historical Events and Spaces of Hate: Hate Crimes against Arabs and Muslims in Post-9/11 America, is available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1525/sp.2011.58.1.21.pdf?acceptTC=true.

Media contact: Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.