Vital Signs

The Politics of Hate Crime Statistics

The FBI's "Hate Crime Statistics"—preliminary figures for 1995 were released in November—are highly suspect because of the agency's flawed methodology. The problem is that, in recording and identifying the perpetrators of hate crimes, there are no strictly defined categories for thugs of "European-American," "Hispanic," or "Middle Eastern" descent. The term "Hispanic" has already been officially defined by Public Law 94-311 and Directive Number 15 of the Office of Management and Budget as "a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race." Employing the category "Middle Eastern" would probably be more convenient and less confusing than the heading currently used—"North Africa and Southwest Asia"—to identify anyone from that region of the world. And regarding the term "European-American," it has not been officially recognized by the federal government. It is essential that this last category be implemented and defined as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe—i.e., the British Isles, Iceland, and the European continent as bordered by the Pyrenees, the Caucasus, and the Ural mountains." This definition conforms to the standard already established by the federal government for defining Americans with origins in...

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