hate

It’s not just your imagination: Hate is on the rise. And so are hate crimes.

The Virginia State Police report a nearly 50 percent spike in hate crimes in the commonwealth from 2016 to 2017. Last year, more than 200 such incidents were reported.

Eighty-nine of those were motivated by racial bias — including 68 against African-Americans. Forty-four were motivated by religious bias. Of those, 22 targeted Jews and eight targeted Muslims. The remainder of hate crimes targeted sexual orientation or persons with disabilities. Most of the offenders were young, white men.

The increase in hate crimes looks all the more stark when contrasted with the dip in crime overall. Homicides fell by 5 percent statewide and robberies fell by 10 percent.

Untold gallons of ink have been spilled trying to explain bigotry’s resurgence. Economic rationales are hard to square with record-low unemployment. Whether the phenomenon has led to the rise of populist politicians or vice versa is a chicken-and-egg game. But as hard as the trend is to explain, it is harder to understand. What possible gain can come from lashing out in hate is beyond the explicable.

The dismaying figures offer a reminder that progress is not inexorable. To be sustained, it must be championed — a task that falls not just to those in lofty positions of power but also, and perhaps especially, to the everyday rest of us.

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