Since Trump’s surprising victory last week, hate crimes have increased across the country. Vandals have painted swastikas and messages such as “White Power” across various buildings in order to intimidate minorities. Protests against his presidency have taken place just about everywhere: in cities, on college campuses and before major sporting events.
Meanwhile, there are people celebrating a Trump presidency as if they broke a 52-year old curse. How is this stark divide possible?
Two differing narratives have risen from the increased hatred since election night. Liberals believe that minorities are being targeted, and conservatives believe that Trump supporters are being targeted.
Is one of these true? Are both of these true?
The driving force behind the persecution of Trump supporters is a video that went viral last week. Three Black men and two Black women assaulted a White man in the streets of Chicago. One of the attacking men stole his car during the fight, while he still clung on to the door. The crowd of people waiting for the bus began to accuse the man of voting for Donald Trump, which he believes may have made the beating worse, but no one from the crowd attempted to help the man.
The initial belief of the video was that the man was being attacked because he voted for Donald Trump, and several media outlets ran with the idea. The video has been shared by White supremacist blogs, and some media outlets such as Infowars even compared it to a lynching, a violent act where Black men were castrated, hung and set on fire by communities of White people who ultimately went unpunished.
However, both the Chicago Police Department and the victim, David Wilcox, have acknowledged that politics did not start the tragic beating that he suffered, but the incident has emerged from a traffic altercation. The attackers’ black sedan scraped his vehicle.
“I stopped and parked. And I asked if they had insurance, and the next thing that I knew they were beating the s— out of me,” Wilcox said to the Chicago Tribune.
What happened to Wilcox should never have happened, and those who are responsible need to answer to the law. But this video is not an example of Trump supporters being attacked for simply supporting him, nor should it be used that way. Even though none of the crowd attempted to help or physically harm Wilcox, their jeering about politics did not improve the situation.
While there are not yet any objective measures for attacks on Trump supporters, incidents involving hatred against racial groups and religious minorities have increased since last week. Over 300 acts of intimidation, vandalism or harassment have been reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center since election day alone. Experts have compared the spike to post 9/11 levels, when peaceful Muslims faced retaliation for the actions of terrorists. The latest FBI reports show a 67 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in hate crimes against Muslims.
These instances of hatred include racist and anti-Semitic chants towards students and vandalization of property with racial slurs and White supremacist messages. Muslim women have reported being physically assaulted and threatened, and some have stopped wearing their hijab to avoid becoming the target of violence.
The political rhetoric has gotten to the point where a child can literally connect the racist dots. Kindergarten students, 13 years away from participating in their first election, claimed that they voted for Donald Trump, and told a Hispanic child that he would be deported. Where does a five year old hear such things?
What can we do for each other in the face of such deep division?
These are tough times, especially for minorities who continue to fight against harmful rhetoric. Any efforts to create unity and peace will go a long way for someone who feels that this country no longer has space for them. Conversations about the scope of the government can be set aside; people as human beings are more important than having a big or small government.
Fortunately, the President-elect did not stay completely silent. After being prompted, Donald Trump addressed the surging rates of hateful incidents occurring after his own victory.
“I am so saddened to hear that,” Trump said in an interview on 60 Minutes. “And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it—if it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.'”
But the societal damage is done, and the fact of the matter is that, regardless of what Trump thinks, his rhetoric and status are empowering racists. They now have a voice and aren’t afraid of being told they are wrong.
Especially when they see representation in the White House.
Donald Trump has appointed a White nationalist, Stephen Bannon, as chief strategist. Before joining Trump’s campaign, he ran Breitbart News.
There is going to be a White supremacist in the White House in 2017.
Actions do speak louder than words, which is why hundreds of people have found ways to become involved with groups like Black Lives Matter since Election Day. Even on-campus groups have organized protests and rallies.
If you voted for Trump, show through your actions that you don’t support the rhetoric that led to the recent rise in hate crimes.
If you voted for someone else, do more than share articles on Facebook to show how outraged and flabbergasted you are.
Take peaceful action. Don’t be a bystander.