Critical Approaches to US Federal Hate Crime Data

Authors: Lily Herbert*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Topics: Quantitative Methods, Qualitative Methods, Applied Geography
Keywords: hate crime, data
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s hate crime data are the most comprehensive in the United States, and thus present the greatest possibility for documenting and advocating for legal address of hate-motivated violence. For example, they can be visualized to illustrate a drastic spike in violence against minorities immediately following 9/11. However, the FBI itself has long practiced surveillance against the very communities that faced vigilante violence after 9/11. Additionally, the police agencies that report hate crime data are frequently implicated in unequal treatment of marginalized communities. This results in a tension — while the FBI’s data present possibilities for advocates, they are collated within a legal system that was not built for marginalized communities. Non-reporting — whether from lack of resources or lack of motivation to report — leads to gaps in the data. It also highlights the question of how to close these gaps, throwing into question the possibilities of policy and allocation of resources to agencies. Drawing from critical race and digital studies, this paper outlines three methodological approaches to the FBI’s hate crime data that explore this tension. These methods explore the possibilities for using this data to achieve social justice, while acknowledging the constraints of how the data is constructed within the US legal system.

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