Two recent reports show that the country — Oklahoma included — is in the grip of the most hate and antisemitism in decades.
These are not one-off compilations. The annual crime reports paint a grim picture based on generations of statistics gathering. The reports reaffirm what many have experienced anecdotally in daily life.
Such data ought to make Americans take pause and reflect on why such anger is boiling up. Corners of our culture have become so bitter, so divided, that civil society is morphing into a place where violence and harassment are to be expected.
More importantly, we ought to question where this will lead. What kind of communities will emerge from this era of enmity? What is our individual responsibility in changing the tone?
A hate crimes supplement from the FBI found a 12% jump in bias-motivated incidents in the U.S. in 2021. The Anti-Defamation League tracked a 36% rise across the nation in antisemitic incidents — leading to the highest number on record since the group began this tracking in 1979.
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In Oklahoma, law enforcement agencies reported to the FBI a total of 74 hate crimes in 2021. That is the highest number since 2000 and fifth highest since 1991.
Of those committed that year, 66% were motivated by a victim’s race, ethnicity or ancestry. Sexual orientation bias led to 20% of the crimes, followed by 5% based on religion and 4% each on gender and disability.
About 90% of those crimes were committed against individuals, and 43% occurred at a residence.
Among offenders, 51% were white, 25% unknown, 10% multiracial, 8% Black and 6% American Indian.
The Anti-Defamation League reported 11 antisemitic incidents in Oklahoma last year (eight harassment and three vandalism), up from five incidents the previous year. That may not sound like much, especially considering the top five most populated states make up 54% of antisemitic incidents. But to each victim, it takes a heavy psychological toll.
Every hate-motivated incident erodes public safety and a sense of decency, compounding into an toxic stew.
This isn’t surprising considering the venom spilling from too many elected, community and faith leaders. Pushing a fear of “the other” has become so commonplace that it’s expected as a playbook to gain power.
It’s rare these days to witness a civil discourse of different ideas and perspectives. Leaders are quick to label others as enemies, dismissing their ideas and experiences. Name-calling and exclusion are the norm.
In the past two years, Oklahoma lawmakers have pushed discriminatory laws against transgender people. They seek bans on books and forbid the teaching of certain curriculum on race and gender. State commissions and boards do not reflect the rich diversity of the population.
Americans have always struggled in understanding our differences, but communities come out stronger through that conflict.
Oklahoma is better than this.
We can hold our leaders accountable for their mean-spirited language. We can speak up in our private spaces. We can examine our own actions and words.
The alternative is to let these trend lines continue and devolve into communities that are accepting of contempt and anger.