The FBI released statistics showing that hate crimes rose nationally by 7% over the previous year.
Nationally, 7722 hate crimes were reported. Hate crimes are defined as crimes in which the motivation is the victim's race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
The majority of the hate crimes reported were racially motivated. Of these, 2/3 of them involved a black victim. 20% of them involved a white victim, and the remainder involved a victim who was targetted for being of some other race.
19% of hate crimes involved religion. Of these, nearly 2/3 involved attacks against Jews.
Approximately the same percentage as religion being the motivation were carried out against victims based on sexual orientation, with male homosexuals the most frequent targets.
There is one silver lining in all of this, and it is a most unexpected one. The states with the fewest reported hate crimes, in fact none in one and only one in the other for the whole year, were Mississippi with no hate crimes reported, and Alabama with one.
Yes, you read that right. Mississippi and Alabama.
Mississippi was the state whose racism was famously associated with the movie 'Mississippi Burning,' about the murders of three civil rights workers by the Klan in 1964. It was the home state of such notable racists as depression era Governor Theodore G. Bilbo, who liked to write books comparing blacks with monkeys.
Alabama has always been associated by most of us with racial intolerance, of the most violent and malignant variety. The home state of George Wallace was the state where marchers were brutally beaten at the Edmund Pettis bridge, the state where Bull Conner's police dogs attacked peaceful demonstrators, and the state where klansman murdered four black girls by bombing a Baptist church in 1964.
Mississippi and Alabama have always been considered backwards, racist and a hotbed of racial hatred. Hardly the kind of place you'd expect to see setting a national standard for tolerance.
But that's what we see. Let's recall the words of Dr. King in his 'I have a Dream' speech:
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice...
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I'm sure there are still some racists around in Mississippi and Alabama, as there are every place. I'm sure there are still a few klansmen there, just as for that matter there are some klansmen here in Arizona. But for whatever reason, they have become more tolerant, at least when it comes to resorting to violence, than the rest of the country.
And I call that a miracle. Maybe the rest of the country should see what has changed there.