RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Hate crimes in Virginia targeting people based on their race, ethnicity and ancestry are increasing annually. According to the latest federal data, those factors also account for a large majority of hate crimes.
The U.S. Department of Justice said 72% of hate crimes in the Commonwealth were ethnically motivated in 2020.
A man from southwest Virginia was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for burning a cross on the front yard of a Black family’s home in June 2020 — one of 123 crimes motivated by racial, ethic or ancestral bias, according to the DOJ.
The troubling increase statewide mirrors a national upward trend in hate crimes.
A man shot and killed ten people at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., this weekend. Authorities aid the shooting was based in bias against Black people.
A man also targeted Taiwanese people at a church in California on Sunday. Police said congregants were targeted by a man’s hate for Taiwanese people.
“We have to address it now…It’s pretty clear there’s an uptick,” State Delegate Suhas Subramanyam told 8News Wednesday.
Subramanyam, who is a Democrat and a member of the General Assembly’s Asian American and Pacific Islander caucus, is among several representatives sponsoring a bill aimed at further investigating hate crimes.
Subramanyam said of the potential for future hate crimes, “…either they or their place of worship, or public places where they likely convene, could become targets one day.”
One recent Virginia hate crime that got worldwide attention? The man charged with killing Heather Heyer in Charlottesville‘s “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 pleaded guilty to 29 federal hate crimes.
The DOJ said the driver admitted “he drove into the crowd of counter-protesters because of the actual and perceived race, color, national origin and religion of its members.“
DOJ data says racially motivated hate crimes in Virginia jumped from 85 to 102 in 2019. In 2020 there were 123 cases.
That’s not the case for hate crimes targeting religion, sexual orientation, disability and more—they’ve stayed flat or decreased.
“One of the things I’d like to see us do is at least know what the cause of the issue might be here in Virginia, how prolific it is and what we can do about it,” Subramanyam said. “At least come together, regardless of your political party and try to find a solution.”
The Democrat’s bill aiming to combat hate crimes against the AAPI population would call for a study into the prevalence of those crimes.
However, Subramanyam said House leadership has not given the bill a hearing. 8News awaits a response from the House Speaker Todd Gilbert’s office.