The FBI recently released its annual Hate Crime Statistics report. It showed a 50% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes over 2009 levels, and a spike of 11% in anti-Latino hate crimes. This isn’t a coincidence. These numbers follow a period of marked xenophobia in politics, from the enactment of Arizona’s draconian new immigration law to anti-mosque activity nationwide.
These numbers may not even tell the whole story. Undocumented populations - including South Asians - are susceptible to such violence, but are loath to report incidents for fear of deportation and separation from their families. Underreporting is a major issue beyond undocumented populations, as well: fear of retaliation often keeps such reports from surfacing at all.
Xenophobic rhetoric in our local and national political discourse has real effects in our communities. South Asians have been suffering the consequences for many years now: just last month in New York, and earlier this year in California. We need to hold our politicians accountable for their statements, not hold back due to fear. Every time we hold back, we validate politicians who believe in silencing or “othering” entire groups of citizens for their own gain. We need to show them that these tactics will no longer result in gains, that our voices matter, and that they hold beliefs that are actually extremely unpopular.
SAALT has been very busy over the past few weeks doing just that, with letters to Tennessee’s Rick Womick and Kentucky’s David Williams. Let’s keep up the pressure and make it clear to our politicians that we hold them accountable when they perpetuate xenophobia.
Find more resources at SAALT’s page on hate crimes and xenophobia.