For Immediate Release 

Primary Press Contact: Graham West 
Media and Communications Director, the Sikh Coalition, (817) 800-8873 

Secondary Press Contact: Rajanpreet Kaur 
Senior Media and Communications Manager, the Sikh Coalition, 732-823-9266

New FBI Hate Crime Data Shows 2019 Deadliest Year on Record

Decreased Reporting from Law Enforcement and Record High Hate-Motivated Murders Remain Alarming, Sikhs Remain Disproportionately Targeted 

November 16, 2020 -- This morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its annual hate crime statistics report for 2019. Despite a second consecutive year of declined participation in reporting law enforcement agencies nationwide, the overall number of hate crime offenses reached a 10 year high. Even more alarming, deadly hate crimes jumped by 112 percent to a total of 51 hate-motivated killings--the highest reported number since the FBI began publicly reporting these statistics.

“This underreported FBI data only reflects a slice of the lived experiences of Sikhs and other minorities throughout the United States, but it still paints a damning picture” said Nikki Singh, Sikh Coalition Policy and Advocacy Manager. “Even as deadly hate crimes increase, fewer law enforcement agencies are electing to report data to the FBI. Especially given the dangerously divisive political climate of the past four years, we should be reckoning with the problem of hate in America--not continuing to sweep it under the rug.”

The Sikh American community specifically saw a slight decrease in the number of reported anti-Sikh incidents in 2019 after witnessing a 200% surge in reported incidents from the 2018 report. This change is of little comfort, however; extremely low reporting continues to fail to capture the scope of the bias, bigotry, and backlash that Sikhs face, and the community remains disproportionately targeted relative to its small size among the population.

Accordingly, as the governing landscape shifts in 2021, the Sikh Coalition will press lawmakers to finally pass the bipartisan Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. The NO HATE Act was named for hate crime victims Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer, whose murders were excluded from previous statistics reports despite the high-profile nature of their cases. Introduced in 2018, this act would require the federal government to address underreporting and related issues by vastly improving hate crime reporting with funding for resources at the state level, including critical training for law enforcement and the establishment of hate crime reporting hotlines. 

“The NO HATE Act is common sense legislation that is long overdue, and we intend to make that clear to the new Congress in 2021,” Singh continued. “Passing this bill represents a critical step in tackling the scourge of hate in our country as a policy problem--one that requires accurate data collection, appropriate funding, and coordinated local and federal action to even begin to solve.”

Additionally, the Sikh Coalition intends to continue supporting stronger state hate crime laws. Three states (Arkansas, South Carolina, and Wyoming) still do not have a single hate crime law on the books; many others have laws for which the provisions and categories of protected groups should be expanded. Of note, several state legislative efforts to these ends were stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020--despite the fact that the pandemic itself led to an increase in anti-Asian bias incidents.

Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world, with approximately 500,000 adherents in the United States. Many practicing Sikhs are visually distinguishable by their articles of faith, which include the unshorn hair and turban. Though they serve as important reminders for Sikhs to remain committed to their values of love, equality, and justice, these articles of faith also unfortunately present targets for hate-motivated harassment and assaults. 

The Sikh Coalition is the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States. In 2020, we entered our 20th year of legal and policy work on issues related to hate crimes, including the pro bono representation of Sikh Americans who have been directly affected by bias-motivated incidents. For interviews, please contact Graham West or Rajanpreet Kaur. For more background information on the Sikh community, faith and traditions please review our free Reporter’s Guide to Sikhism