On November 16th, 2020, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has published its annual hate crime data for 2019, in the spirit of the International Day for Tolerance, a day honoring the adoption of a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance by UNESCO’s Member States on November 16th, 1995. This data contains information on 6,964 hate incidents in 45 participating States as reported by 148 civil society groups, UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and OSCE missions. Revealing important discoveries on the recent international trend of hate crime based on racism and fascism, the major findings of this data are closely related to the nature of work that UNITED undertakes, which leaves us with an absolute need to examine it closely. As a result, this article will aim at elaborating the major findings of this 2019 OSCE/ODIHR hate crime data and how they are linked to the further actions that UNITED are planning to take in order to resolve these problems in the future.
A Considerable Spike in Hate Crimes Based on Racism and Xenophobia
The most striking point that the 2019 OSCE/ODIHR report makes is the fact that there has been a significant spike in hate crime incidents based on racism and xenophobia, compared to the 2018 data. According to the report, the total number of victims targeted by hate crimes of racism and xenophobia was 1,550, a number higher than any other motivations of hate crimes, including that of bias against Roma and Sinti or bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Out of the total hate crimes incidents of 6,964, hate crimes of racism and xenophobia accounted for 3,033 incidents; 44% of the total and nearly double the number of incidents on the second-largest category of hate crime motivation, which was anti-semitism. This finding is particularly astonishing when compared with the 2018 data, as it demonstrates a definite increase in this type of hate crimes both in numbers and percentages. In 2018, the number of hate crime incidents based on racism and xenophobia also ranked the highest, accounting for 1,825 incidents out of 5,735 total incidents – roughly 32% of the total. This finding clearly shows us that hate crimes based on racism and xenophobia have not only been around for the past few years as the most severe type of hate crimes in today’s world but also became aggravated during the past year. Considering how we are currently living in the era of COVID-19, an unprecedented pandemic that generated abnormal fear against ‘others,’ it goes without saying that COVID-19 has only worsened this trend of racist, xenophobic hate crimes. Ever since the COVID-19, originating from Wuhan, China, had swept the entire globe, many Asians have reported a surge in racially motivated, Anti-Asian hate crimes involving physical violence and harassment, notably in Europe, the US, and Canada, which are the participating States of the OSCE/ODIHR hate crime data survey. This news undoubtedly insinuates that the 2020 data will likely follow the same pattern as that of 2019, meaning that the trend of racist, xenophobic hate crimes is taking place somewhere at this very moment.
Less Violent Attacks against People, But More Microaggressions
Another interesting point that this report raises, in comparison to its 2018 counterpart, is that the form that these hate crimes undertake has become less indirect, as there have been less direct violent attacks against people, but more indirect acts of violence, such as threats or attacks against property. If we take a look at the graph divided by the forms of hate crimes for the 2018 data, the vast majority of hate crime incidents were violent attacks against people, with a handful of exceptions. On the other hand, the 2019 data tell us a different story. In 2019, many categories in which violent attacks against people have previously dominated the chart, such as Racism and Xenophobia or bias against people with disabilities, have shown a shift in their composition since the percentage of violent attacks has relatively decreased and the percentage of indirect forms of violence, such as threats or attacks against property, has increased. At a glance, this new finding might indeed sound like good news, but in reality, it is quite the contrary. The fact that indirect forms of hate crimes have increased than before ultimately signifies that these hate crimes have become more discreet, trivial, and adjusted their sphere from the public to private, which is a phenomenon widely known by the name of microaggression. Since microaggressions are relatively hard to be discovered by the state and are often considered to be ‘minor’ or ‘unimportant’ both by victims and the perpetrators, putting an end to this new trend of violence is extremely difficult to do so. In other words, the rise of microaggressions could be equated as a signal that hate crimes will persist in the future, no matter their degree of seriousness.
Further Actions to Take in the Future?
As the 2019 OSCE/ODIHR hate crime data well demonstrates, hate crimes targeting minority groups, namely racial, ethnic ones, have become a certain trend during recent years and have been steadily increasing in terms of its numbers. This status quo leaves us with the inevitable question of our day; what measures can we take to stop this hate crimes trend? Needless to say, this is not the easiest question to find an answer to, but the one thing that does not go away is the striking reminder that every action against racism, xenophobia, and all types of inhumanity matters, no matter how big or small they are. In order to bring the largest possible number of people altogether to participate in anti-racism, anti-xenophobia movements, an international campaign organized by various NGOs is more than necessary, such as the European Action Week Against Racism by UNITED, which will take place this upcoming March 2021. Throughout this campaign, UNITED aims to bring all individuals interested in celebrating diversity and standing firm against racism and xenophobia. We are well aware that putting an end to racism and xenophobia, namely represented by hate crimes, is not an easy task; but we are more than willing to take a chance on it and believe that #StayingUnited is the one and only solution to this challenge.
By Jaerin Kim
Jaerin is a current intern at UNITED for Intercultural Action. Originally from Busan, South Korea, she is now studying Political Theory and History in Reims, France, as part of the Dual BA program between Sciences Po Paris and the University of British Columbia.