Hate crimes in Maryland more than doubled in 2020, says the Federal Bureau of Investigations report created at the beginning of September. Up until 2020, there had been a consistent decrease in hate crimes, with only 19 reported in 2019.

However, the FBI showed a 286% increase in crimes that targeted a person’s race, ethnicity, or ancestry in 2020. Why is that?

Maryland State Legislation on Hate Crimes

In Maryland, federal law addresses hate crimes through the Civil Rights Statues (USC Titles 18 and 42), including Conspiracy Against Rights and Prevention or Intimidation. Therefore, one or more people can’t injure, intimate, or threaten someone for any reason, but if a hate crime assault results in bodily injury or death, it is considered a felony or a capital crime.

Maryland law addresses hate crime specifically through Criminal Law Article 10-301. It is illegal to vandalize or attempt to vandalize religious property or threaten anyone for their religious beliefs.

It is also forbidden to burn, destroy, damage, or vandalize the property of a person due to their race or beliefs. No one can harass any person because of their race, skin color, sexual orientation, gender, disability, religious beliefs, national origin, or veteran or homeless status.

Lawyers that offer free criminal law advice state that if you were a victim of a hate crime, you should report it to a local law enforcement agency or a human rights agency immediately. Never clean up or destroy any evidence at the scene and contact your local victim assistance hotline.

Why Hate Crimes are Increasing in the US, Including Maryland

Asian Americans and Black Americans are the primary victims of the hate crime surge. 

Hate Crimes Targeting People of Asian Decent

Hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent rose by 70% in 2020 compared to 2019, says the same 2020 FBI report. The increase coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in the United States, in which predominantly white Republicans unjustly blamed Chinese Americans for the coronavirus outbreak and its origins in China. Former President Donald Trump stoked the fires of this issue and added to growing xenophobia by naming the virus the “Chinese Virus.”

However, Asian Americans also face large amounts of racial violence from other minority groups, and states like New York and California saw large increases of black-on-Asian violence as well. Arrest data from New York showed that violent attacks on Asians were often carried out by other people of color – but this is often overlooked in the discussion of America’s racial violence.

Hate Crimes Targeting Black People/Black Protestors

Compared to anti-Black sentiment in the United States, anti-Asian American hate seems relatively small. In 2020, there were 2,755 reported Black-related hate crime incidents, a 40% spike from 2019, whereas incidents targeting Asian Americans stayed at 274. Both numbers are way too high, but Black Americans became the most targeted racial group by a large margin.

It’s likely that the surge in Black hate crimes was due to the resurgence of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters who retaliated peacefully to the mistreatment of George Floyd by the police. Former President Donald Trump wrongfully declared BLM a “symbol of hate” while openly supporting white nationalists on his Twitter. It’s likely that both actions encouraged racism.

What to do if you Witness a Hate Crime

Whether you live in Maryland or in other parts of the United States, it’s important for all of us to do our part in preventing hate crimes across our country. If you witness a bias incident:

  • Report it: Call 911, even if you’re not witnessing a physical attack. Intimidation and threats to someone’s life or wellbeing are still violent behavior that should be reported.
  • Speak Out in Public: If you feel safe to do so, take action and let the person know this behavior is unacceptable. Don’t be a hero or try to escalate the incident.
  • Be an Active Community Member: Racist sentiment in any community makes us all feel unsafe, and it’s important to show those affected that we’re here for them. Raise cultural awareness and diversity amongst your friends and family, and work with your local community to create a violence-free environment where everyone can thrive.

If you don’t know how to reach your local human rights agency, call the Maryland Hate Crime Hotline at: 1-800-637-6247 on weekdays between 8:30 am-5:00 pm. 

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