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Commentary: American ‘systemic’ society

Rarely does a day pass without this or that pundit or politician declaring that this or that undesirable feature of American society is “systemic.”

One such claim that we are currently hearing a lot about is America’s systemic hatred of Asians. The embedded story line is as follows, although not always fully articulated: White Supremacist groups are on the ascendance in the United States. They want to purge the country of racial minorities. The trend can be observed in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

The real trouble I have with the narrative is that those presenting it rarely provide data to support their declarative statements. Consider the actual data on hate crimes against Asian Americans for the latest available five years:

2015 — TTL Reported hate crimes: 3,310, Asian hate crime TTL: 111, Asian percent of TTL: 3.4, Asian percent of U.S. population: 5.4

2016 — TTL Reported hate crimes: 3,489, Asian hate crime TTL: 113, Asian percent of TTL: 3.2, Asian percent of U.S. population: 5.4

2017 — TTL Reported hate crimes: 4,131, Asian hate crime TTL: 131, Asian percent of TTL: 3.2, Asian percent of U.S. population: 5.6

2018 — TTL Reported hate crimes: 4,047, Asian hate crime TTL: 148, Asian percent of TTL: 3.7, Asian percent of U.S. population: 5.6

2019 — TTL Reported hate crimes: 3,963, Asian hate crime TTL: 158, Asian percent of TTL: 4.0, Asian percent of U.S. population: 5.7

DATA SOURCE: Hate Crimes — (FBI annual Unform Crime Report)

Asian Demographics — U.S. Census Bureau Annual Community Survey

My point would be this: With respect to the assertion that hate crimes against Asians are a systemic feature of American society, the data do not support the claim. Now if the data do show a significant increase in Asian hate crimes when the FBI releases its 2020 report around June of this year, perhaps those claiming that America is irredeemably racist will have the start of a case, but the available data up to this time does not even point in that direction. Historically, Asians have been less represented in national hate crime data than the U.S. population as a whole. To whip the public up into a frenzy with false assertions for political gain is a crime in and of itself.

What we can say with complete certainty is that there is too much hate in America. But that could be said of every society beginning with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Hate itself is systemic; it is part of fallen man’s nature. But to extend that further and insist that every subsequent crime provides evidence of systemic hatred of one group by another does little other than promote a form of neo-tribalism. And tribalism is the very bane of unity, cooperation, and progress in every society in which it exists. Yet our newscasters and politicians almost seem to derive joy when making declarative statements which promote hatred and division, much of the time without evidence. If my father were still alive, he’d grab them by the ear, yank them out of their chair, and tell them to “knock it off.” But the generation with that level of common sense is largely gone. And as a consequence, the level of hatred in American hearts grows unchecked and unchallenged.

— Victor E. Thayer

Upland, California


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