The Pandemic and Rise in Hate Crimes in MCPS

Being pent up inside for the past 18 months has resulted in stifled emotions. Sadly, these emotions have escalated into violence in some unfortunate scenarios. Physical and verbal hate crimes have increased significantly across the US during COVID-19. Specifically in Montgomery County, these vicious outbursts have been tormenting the minority population.

This hatred tends to have no limits. Earlier this year, Asian-American owned businesses were being frequently vandalized and the Black Lives Matter movement was somehow a popular topic of debate. Even now, in the perceived “safe space” of schools and months out of lockdown, students of many different backgrounds are being faced with similar abuse in verbal forms. It seems like physical separation not only raised tensions, but increased the willingness to act on them. The question is: why?

It’s a frequent conclusion in the academic world that the ongoing pandemic is linearly correlating with an increase in violence, especially hate crimes. In 2020, according to the FBI, racially motivated hate crimes increased as much as 70%. The World Health Organization also reported that children have experienced significantly more violence in their communities. Aside from what data proves, it’s obvious the pandemic has been stressful. From financial loss to social deprivation, it seemed that everything one could seek solace in disappeared when it was needed most. It’s common to overstress when you have no outlet, but unfortunately, it’s also common to wrongly and erratically displace blame when the frustration can’t be contained. Regardless, this behavior should not be tolerated.

Still, hate crimes obviously existed before the pandemic. Minority-targeted hostility is sadly nothing new to MCPS’ student population. So, at least this time around, those conclusions can likely be summed up into a single argument: lack of accountability.

Being stuck inside personal bubbles of independent thought without confrontation can bring out a sense of entitlement. Seething in racist and homophobic views and coming back to in-person activity with hundreds of other students can seem like a culture shock. MCPS’ diverse student community ensures a significant amount of cultural and racial interaction that some may have been lacking over social distancing.

Additionally, in MCPS, there is an inherent segregation occurring between schools across the county. There are high schools like Einstein and Watkins Mill that have an over 60% minority population, and there are high schools like Sherwood and Walter Johnson having over 50% white students. Recently, the schools with smaller minority populations have been experiencing the most hate against them. For those inciting the aggression, they usually have the advantage of strength in numbers.

Although it can’t be said for certain why the pandemic and an increase in hate crimes seem to have a strong connection, there are plenty of factors that make the relationship possible. Now, what’s left is to effectively combat its negative effects.