Hate crimesBlack Americans are still victims of hate crimes more than any other group

By Lillianna Byington, Brittany Brown, and Andrew Capps

Published 17 August 2018

James Byrd Jr., who was dragged to death in Texas 20 years ago, became one of the namesakes for a 2009 federal law expanding hate crime legislation. But just 100 hate crimes have been pursued by federal prosecutors between January 2010 and July 2018.

Former Texas prosecutor Guy James Gray keeps a 20-year-old CD in his desk that documents with graphic photos one of the most vicious hate crimes in history – the day James Byrd Jr. was beaten, stripped naked, tied to the back of a truck by three men from the Ku Klux Klan and dragged down a dirt road until he was dead and decapitated.

“When you handle a case like that and get inside the mind of a real racist, a white supremacist racist, and you see how dangerous those people are to the fabric of our society, you just become more sensitive to racial issues,” Gray said.

In 2009, Byrd became one of the namesakes for The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law expanding hate crime legislation to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

But just 100 hate crimes — including 10 in Texas — have been pursued by federal prosecutors between January 2010 and July 2018, according to a News21 analysis of court documents. Half of those cases across the country — and half of those in Texas — involved racially motivated violence against black Americans, more than any other group.

The numbers do not include hundreds of other cases prosecuted in local and state courts. No single agency tracks those arrests or cases, although incidents are supposed to be reported to the FBI by state and local police. Since 1995, black Americans have been the victims of 66 percent of all racially motivated hate crimes, according to FBI data collected from local law enforcement agencies.

“You still see it all over, in all the cities and in the rural places, it’s still with us,” said Gray, who is now an attorney in Kerrville.

While black Americans have long been targets of hate, advocacy groups and victims told News21 the 2016 presidential campaign and the election of President Donald Trump may have encouraged more people to express their intolerance toward black Americans.