Faith, News, Oregon

Anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim acts spur surge in reported hate incidents in Oregon

Hateful acts directed at Oregonians because of their religion drove an increase in reported bias-related crimes and non-criminal incidents over the past year, according to a report released Monday by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. 

Oregonians in 2023 reported nearly 3,000 incidents of bias to a confidential state hotline, and about 20% of those incidents were related to the victim’s religion – most targeted at Jewish people. As it has since the commission began collecting data in 2020, race remains the largest motivating factor behind bias incidents. 

While the state-run Bias Response Hotline has reported an increased number of bias incidents each year since it began collecting data in 2020, the state Department of Justice notes that many incidents still go unreported. The department launched a three-month ad campaign in April to raise awareness about the hotline, which helps Oregonians connect with resources including counseling, help filing police reports and community support. 

“We know most people don’t tell anyone – oftentimes including law enforcement – about their hate and bias experiences, so it is critical we continue to invest in and support our front-line advocates providing crucial services to Oregonians throughout the state on the hotline,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. 

Over the past four years the hotline has fielded nearly 10,000 reports that varied in scope and severity, including reports of spitting, burning LGBTQ+ pride flags, nooses left on doorsteps, local elected officials spreading anti-Jewish tropes in public meetings, books by authors of color and queer authors being banned, trans students being forced to use their former names in yearbook photos and race-based homicide. 

“Acts of bias and hatred are cruel and cowardly, and they deny people the dignity of safety and belonging every Oregonian deserves,” Rosenblum said. “Hate speech, slur-filled graffiti, bigoted flyering campaigns and bias-motivated assaults are what we are seeing and hearing about regularly on the hotline.” 

The hotline has found trends in bias incidents. Anti-Asian incidents, for instance, peaked in 2021 – coinciding with the COVID pandemic. Hate directed at Hispanic Oregonians spiked in 2022, an election year with a lot of attention directed at asylum seekers being bused to cities around the country. And in 2023, after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the war that followed, incidents directed against Jewish and Muslim Oregonians spiked. 

Hotline workers counted 456 hateful incidents directed at Jewish Oregonians, a 144% increase since 2022. The number of anti-Muslim incidents increased by 263%, from 27 in 2022 to 98 in 2023. 

Race is still responsible for more than 40% of reported incidents. While the number of incidents targeting people because of their race has nearly doubled since 2020, race-based attacks constituted 75% of incidents in 2020. More than half the race-based incidents in 2023 targeted Black Oregonians, and hate and bias against Black people made up about 20% of all reports despite Black people being 2% of the state’s population. 

This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.

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