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Remembering George Floyd: 2 years after social justice rallies, a rise in hate crimes

Such incidents have surged across the country and in Cleveland, where there's been a threefold increase.

CLEVELAND — The murder of George Floyd in 2020 at the hands of Minneapolis police triggered an awakening to racism, but amid a nationwide social justice movement in which an estimated 15-20 million Americans participated, there's been a surging wave of hate crimes that culminated in the racist massacre at a Buffalo grocery store earlier this month.

"There's always this metaphor, 'One step forward, two steps back,'" Dr. Ronnie Dunn, associate professor at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs, explained.

Dunn sees a historical pattern taking place, where Americans' sensibilities are shocked by incidents like the killing of Floyd. That led to bold messaging and Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country and here at home.

But like ripples in water, the efforts begin to fade over time.

"Unfortunately, I think that what we're witnessing is the historic backlash that tends to follow periods of racial progress," Dunn said, pointing to the surge in white supremacy following the Civil Rights Movement.

In 2020, the latest data available from the Department of Justice, there were more than 8,200 reported hate crimes in the U.S. Most of the incidents, approximately 63%, were motivated by race or ethnicity.

In Cleveland, hate crimes surged more than threefold: There were 38 incidents reported in 2018. In 2020, there were 117.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced new anti-hate measures, including $10 million in state grants for hate crime programs.

"We know the threats we face are evolving," Garland said, "and our strategies to confront them must evolve as well."

In Dunn's view, fighting hate crime begins with understanding.

"We have to have that empathy for our fellow American or our fellow being to understand if my humanity is compromised, then your rights and freedoms and humanity are—or will be—compromised as well," he stated.

    

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