Bias incidents in New Jersey increased by almost a third last year compared to 2020, new numbers from the state Attorney General's Office show.
Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said there were 1,871 incidents of harassment, assault or other forms of intimidation against people because of their race, ethnicity, religion or gender identity in 2021 — mirroring a rise in hate and bias incidents nationally.
He attributed the increase to better ways of reporting bias — which can now be done electronically — and divisive rhetoric.
“There's no question the rhetoric around these groups, particularly as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic for anti-Asian incidents, is having a contributory effect, and these words are not empty,” Platkin said. “There's people on the ground who listen to them and act upon them. And we're unfortunately seeing that translate into a rise in hate and bias incidents in New Jersey.”
We need to do a better job coming together, speaking to one another, and educating communities on how to interact with each other
Preliminary 2021 numbers show Asian and transgender people saw the biggest spikes in targeted incidents, with increases of 87% and 171%, respectively, from 2020. Anti-Black incidents constituted 39% of the incidents, the most for any group, while Jewish people were the most commonly targeted religious group.
“New Jersey is proudly one of the most diverse states in the country, and we’ve made clear that hate has no home here,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement.
The AG’s office also released its final bias incident report for 2020. It likewise found a rise in incidents, tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, backlash against the Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 presidential election. Those factors likely contributed to 2021 incidents, officials said.
“We need to do a better job coming together, speaking to one another, and educating communities on how to interact with each other,” Platkin said. His office will use $1 million in federal funding to increase public awareness around reporting bias incidents and to standardize how those incidents are investigated, he added.
“We know that this is a snapshot,” Platkin said. “It's not the entire universe of bias incidents in the state of New Jersey. It's just what we reported. So we're going to continue to do extensive outreach, particularly to groups that may not be reporting all of their incidents.”
Residents can report bias incidents online at https://bias.njcivilrights.gov or call 800-277-BIAS.