Police departments all across the state record instances of alleged hate crimes.
But in North Dakota, without a statute prohibiting them, no one can be charged with a hate crime.
Ruth Buffalo, a citizen of the MHA Nation, says she began experiencing hate speech as early as 4 years old.
“I would say for people of color in general in North Dakota this is a problem that has always existed,” Ruth Buffalo, North Dakota Human Rights Coalition says.
Recent instances of hate speech in the state have caught the public’s attention but for some hate crimes aren’t a new problem.
“It’s a lot of shame I would say. it’s not something to be proud of so, therefore, it gets swept under the rug,” Buffalo says.
State police departments do record instances of alleged hate crimes for FBI statistics.
But in North Dakota, there’s no state law prohibiting hate crimes.
“The laws apply equally to everyone,” Sgt. Mark Buschena, Bismarck Police Department says.
The Bismarck Police Department reports from 2016 to 2017 crimes allegedly motivated by racial, religious or prejudice based on sexual orientation have risen.
“There is no hate crime law per se in North Dakota it would have to fall under what happened,” Sgt. Buschena says.
No matter the crime or the motivation, North Dakota police departments charge based only on the crime itself.
“There’s no enhanced penalty because of a victim’s status,” Sgt. Buschena says.
But in Bismarck there are exceptions.
Though the state of North Dakota doesn’t have a hate crime statute in place the city of Bismarck does prohibit discrimination based on sex, religion, color, or national origin that would limit someone’s access to public places.
If the law is violated it could result in a Class B misdemeanor.
But advocates like Buffalo say hate crimes aren’t going away.
“We have to reach across the table, we have to reach out to others who are different from us and the more we know the less we’ll fear about one another,” Buffalo says.
Buffalo says North Dakotans must keep reaching out to all people groups to keep the state moving forward.
North Dakota ranked second highest in the nation from 2012-2015 for hate crimes reported in the state.