Emily Dievendorf

In December 2016, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission said in its monthly meeting that there were 65 hate incidents reported in just the month prior to their convening compared to the 5 to 10 reports received on average by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights yearly.

In 2017, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program published a study stating that the nation saw an 86% increase in homicides of LGBT people and a 5% increase in hate crimes over all.

In 2017, the Human Rights Campaign reported at least 28 deaths of trans people due to violence, the highest on record. As of mid-May 2018 there had already been 11 violent deaths of trans people in the United States that we know of.

Fewer people today are comfortable with LGBTQ people than four years ago and people are less comfortable with LGBTQ people in their family, or LGBTQ people serving as their doctors and their kids’ teachers than they were four years ago according to new surveys.

In the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2017 “Year in Hate Report” they noted, “The FBI estimates that 58.9% of hate crime victims are targeted because of their race, ethnicity, or ancestry, 21.1% because of their religious affiliation, and 16.7% because of the offender’s bias against the victim’s sexual orientation. Anti-Muslim crimes went up more than 25% in 2016, and anti-Jewish crimes went up 20%. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that an average of 250,000 hate crimes occur each year, about 40 times the number of FBI reports.”

Hate is unacceptable. We all have a right to safety, respect, and the recognition that all are equal in value. Yet, despite the clear increase in the violence and harassment against our most vulnerable communities since 2017, the Trump administration has also increased the denial of protections for those very same communities. In fact, schools, where we see most of the bias incidents occurring, face an especially tough opponent in the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which has recently admitted to turning away complaints of harassment from advocates who send in multiple complaints of a similar nature.

Marginalized communities know how counterintuitive this is – or brilliant on the part of an administration that may want to pretend there isn’t a discrimination problem for marginalized communities – because when vulnerable communities are targeted for discrimination, organizations develop to handle the cases, and the cases will be similar and will be numerous depending on how big the problem is in an area. Devos has chosen to ignore the mess because it is overwhelming when her whole job is to responsibly make sense of the clutter. Her overwhelm is an indication that her job has a purpose.

Blowing off the populations who need help most isn’t new for an administration that has taken most mentions of LGBTQ people off of all the federal websites. Making us invisible is most convenient. Vulnerable people existing, whether black, LGB, undocumented, trans and gender-queer, or disabled, is a problem for Trump and friends because, if acknowledged, the nation might have to admit that there is still work to do, and more so, that the recent enthusiastic embrace of hate speech has created an urgent increase of even more to fix and the fear of looming dangers we shouldn’t have to know anymore.

Hate and intimidation based on who you are, what you look like, or where you are from, has no place in a safe and welcoming community. Hate that manifests in threatening words or violent actions has no place anywhere. The Lansing Association for Human Rights joins our community partners in social justice and equity in formally denouncing bias incidents and hate crimes.

Bias incidents and possible hate crimes are different. Bias incidents send a message to a whole, already vulnerable, community that they are not welcome and are not safe. As such, bias must be treated differently and it requires a coordinated community response. The Lansing community recently came together to create the Bias Incident Rapid Response Task Force, co-chaired by Oscar Castaneda and Emily Dievendorf.

Together, representing necessary countywide stakeholders including the prosecutor’s office, law enforcement, community advocates and affected communities – we are developing a solution.

We know from other communities that bias incident response doesn’t work well or safely if it is done without community coordination. That’s because bias incidents/crimes are different by nature.

We are working to develop a well organized system for the first 24-48 hours and beyond, throughout an investigation, that would allow victims and their families, first responders, advocates, affected communities, resource providing orgs and the media to be coordinated and have clearly defined roles and timely communication that allows for excellent care and for justice to be achieved swiftly and fairly.

The task force is working to develop a comprehensive plan tailored to the mid-Michigan region that is based on the nation’s most successful rapid response plans. We do this together and with urgency because hate has no place here and we have had enough.

Please contact LAHR if you are interested in assisting in the task force or if you are a college student who would like to use your internship to work on the project!


Knowing how to recognize and report bias incidents is especially important right now because they are occurring more frequently. In preparation for Richard Spencer’s visit to Michigan State University, LAHR teamed up with our partners at Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation of Metro Lansing to create information that could be sent out preemptively to students to educate them on how to recognize and report bias incidents and hate crimes, as bias incidents skyrocket when events that include hate speech are permitted in a community. We have shared the “Recognizing and Reporting Bias Incidents” information below. Please share with your network!

Recognizing and Reporting Bias

Please take a minute to learn how to recognize bias and commit to looking out for each other. This can help you recognize a bias incident, as well as provide clear steps on how to report a bias incident.

What IS a bias incident?

A bias incident is an act directed against a person, group, or property, expressing hostility or bias on the basis of perceived or actual gender, race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, disability, size or age.

What do bias incidents look like?

Bias incidents may consist of verbal, written, graphic, and/or physical conduct such as epithets, jokes, graffiti, negative stereotyping, and threatened or actual physical assault.

How is a bias incident different?

Hostility targeted at a specific person due to an identifying characteristic is also directed, consciously or subconsciously, at the entire group of people who share that characteristic.

What is the difference between a bias incident and a hate crime?

By definition, all hate crimes are bias incidents but not all bias incidents are hate crimes. In a bias incident no criminal activity is involved.

What about free speech?

When beliefs and ideas that are rooted in bias are motives for threats against or for the harassment of an individual or group, the threats and harassment are not protected by the First Amendment. The ACLU clarifies that “merely offensive or bigoted speech does not rise to that level, and determining when conduct crosses that line is a legal question that requires examination on a case-by-case basis.” If there is any question as to whether bias-motivated speech or actions were targeting individuals or groups the issue should be reported for investigation.


If you think you may be the a victim of a bias incident or have witnessed a bias incident report the incident as soon as possible as follows:

1) With the victim’s consent*, call 911 immediately if medical attention is needed and/or to address issues related to personal safety and potential criminal conduct. *If consent cannot be obtained, use discretion in making the report being mindful of the victim’s safety and confidentiality. If possible, notify the victim as soon as possible that the incident has been reported.

2) Contact the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) within 180 days to file a complaint, request assistance, report harassment, a bias incident or a possible hate crime. Call 1-800-482-3604 or visit www.michigan.gov/ MDCR and click “How We Can Help.” Contacting the MDCR within the first 24 hours is strongly advised.*

3) MSU: If you would like to report a bias incident or a concern of discrimination or harassment to Michigan State University, please contact the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) at 517-353-3922 or file a report online at https://oie.msu.edu/. Note: OIE is not a crisis response resource and is not available outside of business hours.

4) Add to the tracking of bias reports nationally by visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website (https:// www.splcenter.org/reporthate).

5) If the bias incident is directed toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) students, also contact Equality Michigan Victim Services Victim Services at (866) 962-1147.

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