Confronting Hate Crimes and White Supremacist Violence
White supremacy has always been a problem in our American story -- if not always at the surface, then lurking not so far beneath it.
We have seen it from slavemasters who stole and pillaged Black bodies for profit to demagogues throughout generations who stoked racist and anti-immigrant hatred, often for votes, and then enshrined this bigotry into our laws.
And, yes, racist violence has always been a part of the American story -- never more so than in times of transition and times of rapid social change.
We have seen it from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement; from the Red Summer of 100 years ago to Charlottesville; From the lynching of people of Mexican descent in Porvenir, Texas 101 years ago to the massacre targeting Latinx people in El Paso, Texas this past Saturday.
To say this, is to speak the truth plainly -- because without the truth there can be no reconciliation.
--Cory Booker, Remarks at Emanuel AME Church, August 9, 2019
Dr. King once said that “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me [...] It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.” We have the power to act. Cory's gun violence prevention plan, which has been called "among the most far-reaching of any presidential campaign ever,” would make it much harder for those intent on committing hate crimes to access guns. But we also need to focus on violence motivated by hate and white supremacy. That’s why, as president, Cory would confront rising hate crimes and white supremacist violence by improving the federal and local response, addressing online hate, and supporting communities and victims of hate crimes.
Improve federal and local policies and response
Hate crimes are vastly underreported in America. We won’t succeed in reducing hate crimes and violence motivated by white supremacy without improving the response of federal and local authorities and fostering better communication and collaboration with impacted communities. As president, Cory will:
- Create a White House Office on Hate Crimes and White Supremacist Violence to bring together federal agencies and community organizations to improve upon and coordinate the federal response and ensure that dedicated resources are addressing hate crimes and to helping victims and impacted communities.
- Improve reporting of hate crimes by helping local law enforcement agencies establish policies and training for officers on how to identify, investigate, and report crimes, as required in the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act.
- Improve how the federal government collects and records data on domestic terrorism and how the federal government addresses it by increasing the coordination, transparency, and accountability of these processes, including requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit annual reports.
- Require that the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conduct assessments of the threats posed by white supremacists and report out annually to Congress and the public.
- Direct the FBI and DOJ to provide updated guidance on the nature and severity of the white supremacist threat to state and local law enforcement and to create joint state and federal task forces to share information about, monitor and investigate activity, and prosecute white supremacist crime.
- Direct the FBI to reinstate the specific white supremacist designation and end the misleading “racially motivated violent extremism” category, which will help ensure that the FBI’s classification system accurately captures the threat of white supremacist violence.
- Mandate and improve the reporting of hate crimes to the DOJ by state and local law enforcement agencies.
- Pass and sign into law Cory’s Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, which would make lynching a federal crime for the first time.
- Require the DOJ and FBI to prioritize resources to address acts of violence and mass violence motivated by white supremacy, in the same way they prioritize international terrorism.
- Increase resources and staffing at the DOJ Civil Rights Division to strengthen investigations, training and coordination to address hate crimes.
Empower and support communities and victims of hate crimes
Hate crimes create fear and distrust, which isolate victims and entire communities. We must address these barriers to make it safer and easier for victims to report crimes and for communities to access and direct resources where and how they will be most effective. As president, Cory will:
- Create an external advisory group of community stakeholders impacted by hate crimes to share information with and advise the White House, as well as DOJ, FBI and DHS officials working to investigate and address hate crimes.
- Invest in grant programs at federal agencies including the DOJ, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Labor that help heal and empower victims that have experienced hate crimes and acts of violence in their communities, schools, and workplaces.
- Ensure that immigrants can access law enforcement and emergency health care without fear by directing the Department of Justice to expand the list of “sensitive locations” so that all immigrants and their families can carry out basic activities and access crucial services without fear of arrest, detainment, or deportation.
Address hate online
Social media and other online platforms are being used as forums for the spread of hate, fear, and violence. More must be done to limit the use of these forums to spread violence, while ensuring the protection of First Amendment rights. As president, Cory will:
- Improve existing infrastructure and tools within DOJ to ensure that efforts focused on violence by white supremacists include online threats and recruitment.
- Reduce the spread of hate and online radicalization by working with social media and online platforms on strategies like civil rights audits that improve transparency and accountability to keep communities safe from white supremacist threats, consistent with the First Amendment.
- Create grants for higher education institutions to study and research hate crimes and models for prevention, including white supremacist recruitment online.
- Work with international partners and internet platforms to address violent extremism on the internet around the world.