The Washington Post published a piece by associate professor of history and religious studies Caleb Elfenbein titled “More Americans have a positive view of Muslims today than two years ago. So why are anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise?” in its Made by History blog.
This new poll would appear to be reason for optimism. If views of Muslims are improving, a reduction in hate crimes should be just around the corner, right?
In fact, viewing hate crimes statistics in light of improving perceptions of Muslims may obscure a deeper, more troubling reality of anti-Muslim hostility. By seeing hate crimes as a reflection of, well, hatred, the broader public lets itself off the hook, blaming anti-Muslim activity, including but not limited to hate crimes, on a shrinking number of anti-Muslim bigots — a few bad apples emboldened perhaps by our president.
History offers a more sober view.