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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington Study: Blacks, Minorities Disproportionately Impacted by Hate Crimes

Hispanic and Black populations have a higher risk of becoming victims of race- or ethnicity-motivated violent hate crimes compared to non-Hispanic Whites, according to a new study from the University of Washington (UW) that looked at the risk and health impacts of these types of crimes.

Researchers estimated that victimization for Blacks ranged from 30 to 40 percent higher, and victimization for Hispanics were 10 to 60 percent higher. Violent hate crimes against Blacks tended to be more violent, usually involving a weapon or firearm, and resulted in higher rates of injuries and medical care compared to other races and ethnic groups.

Furthermore, the downstream effects of these crimes, such as emotional injury and psychological trauma, have a bigger impact on Black victims’ personal life, work or school over time. The study found that nearly 40 percent of Blacks reported difficulties at school or work after the hate crime compared to 21.5 percent of White and 11.7 percent of Hispanic victims.

“The society we live in has a bias that disenfranchises minorities and people of color,” said Dr. Robert Tessler, who led this study as a Master’s student in the Department of Epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health. “This study provides some objective data supporting that claim.”

[Photo: Dr. Robert Tessler]

Researchers at the UW School of Public Health and the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC) used data between 2003 and 2015 from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which collects annual information on personal and household violent and property victimization and its consequences. The study was published Dec. 17 in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

The majority of victims reported the offender as someone from another race. While the rate of hate crimes has remained stagnant over the years, this study suggests that hate crimes against Blacks may be on the rise.

“There is a clear inequity in the risk of victimization between non-Hispanic Whites and minority populations in this study,” Dr. Tessler said. “Specifically with non-Hispanic Blacks, non-Hispanic Whites are less frequently victimized with less severe injuries and fewer consequences of these victimizations.”

Dr. Tessler suggests these finding might be evidence of racial theory in action. The theory states that as minority populations continue to grow and gain more influence and visibility socially, economically and culturally, majority populations respond with actions to suppress minorities into submission.

Inequities in the American social structure and their impact on health outcomes for people of color and their communities have long been documented in public health research. This study provides additional information toward public health researchers’ understanding of the “complex interactions between social structures, individual risks, identity, and legal frameworks.”

Dr. Tessler says more research is needed in order to look further into the complex interactions between violence, health and race/ethnicity. Currently, available data mostly highlights existing disparities. Next steps must include data-driven approaches to promoting minority community empowerment, as well as acknowledgement and action within privileged communities towards overcoming race and ethnicity-based violence.

Contributing authors of the study were Dr. Frederick Rivara, professor and vice chair of Academic Affairs at the UW Department of Pediatrics and adjunct professor of epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health; Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, the Bartley Dobb Professor for the Study and Prevention of Violence and associate professor of epidemiology at the School; Dr. Lynn Langton from the U.S. Department of Justice; and Dr. Monica Vavilala, UW professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics and director of HIPRC. Drs. Rivara and Rowhani-Rahbar are both core faculty members at HIPRC. Dr. Tessler is currently a general surgery resident at the University of Pittsburgh.

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