WASHINGTON, D.C. – District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine today became 2021 President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG)—a nonpartisan organization of 56 state and territory Attorneys General—and launched his presidential initiative to counter hate nationwide. Recent national data shows that incidents of hate, bias-motivated crimes, and the presence of extremists is a growing problem in the United States. AG Racine’s presidential initiative, titled “The People v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity,” aims to work with Attorneys General to raise awareness of hate and bias, prevent hate from taking root in our communities, support residents who have experienced hate, and develop and share best practices on improving hate crime data. This is the first time NAAG has elected a non-state Attorney General or an immigrant to serve in this national leadership position.
“Thank you to my fellow Attorneys General across the country for providing me the opportunity to lead NAAG as its next President. This honor is a testament to the Office of the Attorney General’s talented team and their tireless work fighting for justice and equality, standing up for the rule of law, and protecting District residents,” said AG Racine. “In 2021, I look forward to working with Attorneys General and their staff to focus our collective efforts on analyzing and addressing the scourge of hate in America. From the genocide of Native Americans, slavery, systematic racism, anti-Semitism, and discrimination of all forms, I can think of no better group than Attorneys General—the people’s lawyers—to combat the dehumanization and debasement of people that forms the basis for hate and bias-motivated violence.”
NAAG is the nonpartisan national forum for Attorneys General and their staff to address issues important to Attorneys General offices and the jurisdictions they serve. NAAG provides resources to promote collaboration; fosters local, state and federal engagement on law enforcement issues; and offers training, research, and analysis for Attorneys General offices. Each year, NAAG elects a president who serves on the Executive Committee and develops a presidential initiative to guide the year-long programming for all NAAG members. AG Racine is the first non-state Attorney General and first immigrant to serve as President of NAAG since it was founded in 1907. He is the second African American to serve as President, the first being AG Thurbert Baker of Georgia.
“As public advocates, attorneys general have a crucial role in defending their communities against hate,” said NAAG Executive Director Chris Toth. “General Racine’s presidential initiative will further NAAG’s efforts to promote the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and insights among America’s attorneys general and to support their work protecting the people.”
Since 2015, incidents of hate, bias-motivated crimes, and the presence of extremist groups have generally been on the rise nationwide. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2019 Hate Crimes Statistics marked 2019 as the deadliest year on record, with the total number of hate crimes increasing for the fourth time in five years despite decreased participation by law enforcement agencies that submitted information to the FBI. There were 7,103 single-bias incidents involving 8,552 victims, nearly 60% of which were targeted based on their perceived race, ethnicity, or ancestry. The District of Columbia has also seen a surge in hate crimes in the last five years. In 2015, the Metropolitan Police Department reported 66 hate crimes, whereas in 2019, they reported 203 hate crimes. In both 2018 and 2019, there were over 200 reported hate crimes.
The People v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity
AG Racine’s NAAG presidential initiative will focus on countering hate and promoting social and racial justice. Over the course of 2021, AG Racine will build awareness among Attorneys General and their staff about our country’s history of hate, the impact of its legacy, and its recent rise. He will work to inspire them to advance policies, programs, and legal action that combat hate. Specifically, the initiative will seek to:
- Improve hate crime data: Each jurisdiction and law enforcement agency records bias-motivated incidents differently, if at all, which poses challenges to understanding the extent of the problem. By improving the accuracy and consistency of reporting within and across jurisdictions, Attorneys General can raise awareness of the prevalence of hate and bias in our country. Developing best practices related to collecting, reporting, and sharing data on bias-motivated crimes and incidents will make progress toward this goal.
- Build youth resilience to hate: AG Racine intends to work with Attorneys General to provide communities, especially young people, with the tools to understand and push back against hate to both address the root causes and prevent future incidents from occurring. By including young people as decisionmakers in this process, Attorneys General can help deprive extremists from gaining new followers and facilitate a more cohesive community for future generations.
- Support those who have experienced hate: The initiative will focus on creating thoughtful and comprehensive approaches in how to respond to hate, reduce hate-related violence in times of increased tension and stress, and address individual and community trauma that results from hate and bias-motivated incidents.
Video of AG Racine’s presidential initiative launch is available at: https://vimeo.com/486093105
Video of AG Racine’s keynote remarks is available at: https://vimeo.com/485990207
All videos are available at: www.naag.org/people-v-hate
AG Racine believes that challenging biased attitudes and behaviors in people, institutions, and systems helps to interrupt bias before it escalates. To that end, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) enforces District laws that protect D.C. residents from discrimination, advances legislation to strengthen legal protections, provides community resources and programs to end hate, and supports those who have experienced hate and bias.
To increase awareness and build resilience to hate, this year AG Racine hosted virtual discussions between District residents and community partners on topics such as Combating Hate and Extremism, Stopping the Spread of Violence and COVID-19, Hearing from DC Youth on Combating Hate and Discrimination, and Standing Against Bullying, Harassment, and Hate. Last month, in partnership with Project Create, OAG launched a D.C. youth art competition called Artists v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity, to empower D.C. youth to stand up against hate, to promote social justice, and to inspire change through art.
In the District, the United States Attorney’s Office is primarily responsible for prosecuting bias-motivated offenses committed by adults. OAG, as the exclusive prosecutor of juveniles, has the authority to prosecute youth who commit bias-motivated offenses in some cases. AG Racine introduced the Hate Crime Civil Enforcement Clarification Amendment Act of 2019 before the Council of the District of Columbia to enhance OAG’s authority to bring civil hate crime charges against those who commit bias-motivated offenses.
Learn more at oag.dc.gov/people-v-hate.