November 16, 2017
TSC IntelBrief: International Day of Tolerance Amid Rising Intolerance
The United Nations (UN) observes its annual ‘International Day of Tolerance’ today, November 16. The observance comes at a time when intolerance of others may be greater across America than in any year since the organization began marking the day in 1996.
The UN’s raison d’être is to provide a forum for cooperation rather than confrontation among its 193 members; cooperation that arises from respect or, at least, tolerance for diversity. The organization has failed in many instances, from stopping the war in Syria and reversing Russian aggression in Ukraine, to addressing instances of waste, fraud and abuse in its peacekeeping and humanitarian deployments. Despite those shortcomings, the UN provides an invaluable platform for states to address regional and global issues, with a mission to promote tolerance that may be needed now more than ever before.
The last several years have seen an increase in the West of forms of ‘nationalism’ that are often intertwined with strands of racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. Last week, 60,000 people marched in Warsaw, Poland in an overtly racist and xenophobic ultra-right demonstration that the Polish President denounced on November 13 as ‘sick nationalism.’ Right-wing nationalist movements have also strengthened in Hungary and Germany, where a far-right party made the most gains since the Second World War in last September’s election. While its visibility has diminished, Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis has lit a flame of intolerance in political movements that aren’t going away anytime soon.
The 21st International Day of Tolerance is being observed in the United States at a time of rising intolerance, with hate crimes up for a second straight year. Annual hate crime statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on November 13 showed a 5% rise in 2016. Hate crime statistics may rise as much or more in 2017, given current trends including large public displays of white supremacy and racism — euphemistically called ‘white nationalism' — that haven’t been seen at similar levels in decades. The white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia last August was not an outlier; smaller marches of similar purpose have occurred across the U.S. in the last two years.
Breaking down the FBI statistics reveals more about current trends. Of the 6,121 hate crime attacks recorded by state and local law enforcement, 6,063 were what are called ‘single-bias’ crimes. Of these, 57.5% were motivated by a victim’s race or ethnicity; 21% by religion; and 17.7% by sexual orientation. Of the 7,615 total victims reported in 2016, 4,720 suffered crimes against their persons; 2,813 crimes against property. Victim numbers may be low, due to reporting issues among the more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies.
Across Twitter and Facebook, anti-Semitism is endemic and virulent. It is often inflamed by messages generated by bots and trolls from Russia, which has become a center for white nationalism and anti-globalism. It should be no surprise then that while just 3% of the U.S. population is Jewish, those Americans were targeted in more than 54% of the hate crimes recorded in 2016, with a total greater than all other religious groups combined. This imbalance in targeting has been a consistent feature since the numbers were first released in 1992. Hate crimes against Muslims made up the second largest total of crimes based on religion, and showed the biggest rise at more than 19%. Meanwhile, African-Americans, who make up 13% of the U.S. population, were targets in over half the crimes motivated by race or ethnicity. Increasing displays of overt racism, now being normalized by national politicians and other figures in the West, are fundamental threats to the societies where they occur. Pushing back requires urgent and persistent responses from all who understand that a society’s strength is found in its diversity.
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