10 Most (and 10 Least) Tolerant States in America

Martin Luther King Jr. once wisely said, "Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity." So, how far have we come since King's time in conquering the hate in our society? The Daily Beast put some metrics together to understand which states are the most and least tolerant in the U.S.

Here's how they did it:

For each state we considered the number of hate crimes according to the FBI, the extent of hate-crime statutes, the number of complaints of discrimination filed through the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, the extent of fair-housing and fair-workplace laws, the percentage of residents that support same-sex marriage, the extent of legal rights for same-sex couples, and the percentage of residents that are accepting of various religions. Each state was given a score out of 100 points. Ties were broken based on hate-crime statistics--if the total points matched, the state with fewer hate crimes in the last year ranked higher.

And now for the breakdown... Wisconsin wins for being the most tolerant. Its religious tolerance was quite good, its gay tolerance leaves room for improvement. Others in the top 10 were Maryland in second, then Illinois, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

And on the flip-side, the 10 least tolerant states are Alabama, finishing 40th in the nation, then it gets worse going to Kentucky, North Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas and then Wyoming finishes dead last.

This wasn't included on the list, but interestingly, the 10 most tolerant states all went Democratic in the 2008 election and the 10 least tolerant states are all red states, with the exception of Ohio.

But here's what the study did list: scores for tolerance, hate crimes, discrimination, gay rights, religious tolerance, hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents, population in support of same-sex marriage, and population that believes many religions lead to eternal life (sadly, no ranking for how many people don't think any religions lead to eternal life). A few more interesting high- and low-lights from the study: Massachusetts had the most number of people in support of same-sex marriage (62 percent) and Utah was the lowest (22 percent); New Jersey ranked as having the most hate crimes per 100,000 residents and Hawaii had the least; and Maryland had the least amount of discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents while Wyoming had the most.

Clearly the information collected in the study doesn't tell us everything we need to know about the scope of the issue -- especially statistics of hate crimes and discrimination cases since those are only the reported instances and so many times discrimination and hate crimes fly beneath the radar. Still it's a good jumping off point to a much larger conversation about hate in our society. Another good place to look for information is the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been vigilant at tracking and analysis of hateful activity and they've put together a Hate Map, which lists the hate groups operating in each state. Of course, the most-populated states like California and Texas, show up with the most groups -- but the map also provides a list that names the groups, where they're located and their "type" -- everything from racist skinhead to black separatist to anti-gay.

Really, it seems, what all this information shows is that we still have a long road in front of us. And while it's worth noting that measures of tolerance are a good starting point for examining our evolution as a society, it's still a pretty low bar. It's great to get beyond hate, that's for sure, but it would be better if we could move from mere tolerance of people who are different from us, to understanding and respect. That would be a world, I think, that would make King proud.

AlterNet / By Tara Lohan

Posted at January 17, 2011, 12:54pm

Today's Top Stories