The real reason behind the rise in hate crimes
Not without exceptions, but discrimination based on race, gender and class have significantly reduced in the 21st century. Despite this, the rectification brought about by the many movements in the past several decades hasn’t been enough to eradicate centuries of inequity and exploitation. In fact, the racist rhetorics used by our present-day politicians is reviving the intolerance towards certain groups amongst the general public.
The 2016 electoral campaign of President Trump highly resembled much of what the United States already dealt with in 1968. George Wallace, a four-time Alabama governor known for his resistance to racial integration in the South of the United States, ran for president as the American Independent Party candidate appealing to the white majority of Alabama voters. He certainly wasn’t the first example of a leader vowing to fix the “corrupt system” – one in which the jobs, homes and the invaluable security of the majority are being slowly “invaded by the immigrants” – but his campaign on the back of economic populism opened doors for anomalous and untraditional politicians.
The political rise of the current US president was built on promulgating that the country’s first ever black president was born in Kenya, only to later acknowledge that Barack Obama was in fact born in the US. In his presidential campaign, Trump smartly targeted those who were missing the “good old days.” His cheap and immoral statements calling for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States and labelling all Mexican immigrants as criminals were only uttered to please his targetted majority.
From 2014 to 2016, FBI totals show the hate crimes in the United States sharply going up by 11.7 percent. Since then, these “prejudice-motivated enormities” have been uncontrollably rising, with the disease not being limited to the US but also maintaining a significant presence in Europe and the UK. A report ordered by UK’s former home secretary Amber Rudd recorded hate crimes in the country rising steeply, up by 57% between 2014-15 to 2016-17, with the majority inspired by racial hatred. These numbers are simply a reflection of how the racist remarks from influential figures can have dangerous repercussions.
Recently, a “fervent Trump supporter”, as written by Trevor Aaronson, Cesar Sayoc was charged with various crimes linked to the pipe bombs sent to Trump critics. Sayoc is the latest individual who acted upon his love for Trump and loathing for his opponents, but certainly not the first to do so. As a matter of fact, there have been a number of violent attacks – targetted towards the same people Trump usually blasts in his rallies; Muslims, refugees, Mexicans, CNN and the Clintons – linked to Trump sympathizers, although only a few managed to dominate headlines in the same manner.
In a separate episode, a white supremacist in Kentucky shot dead two black men after attempting to enter a predominantly black church. Witnesses heard the gunman make racist remarks during the incident, therefore confirming yet another case of hate crime targetted towards the black community, possibly and probably fomented by the American president.
The third and the deadliest incident culminated this mad, intolerable week full of white supremacist massacres, as 11 Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue were brutally murdered by a neo-Nazi. Before opening fire, the gunman Robert Bowers yelled: “All Jews must die.” He also previously made anti-Semitic comments online and expressed anger at a Jewish group which helped refugees.
Statistics from the New York Times editorial board show that anti-Semitic and racist hate not only appears to be but, in fact, is on the rise. How can a president, who has advocated for the illegal occupation of the Palestinian lands and has gone as far as saying, “I am the least anti-Semitic person”, be a big part of this problem?
In a campaign advertisement for his presidency, Trump blamed three villains (who happened to be Jewish!) for the problems the everyday American is facing. Those three villains were George Soros (financier and philanthropist), Janet Yellen (then Fed Chair) and Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs CEO). Furthermore, shortly after becoming president, Trump put out a statement marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day which made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism! Who else, other than an anti-Semite, can put out a statement about the Holocaust which doesn’t mention the killing of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
These couple examples are only a reminder that president Trump, despite being pro-Israeli, is a person who fuels the anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican and the Islamophobic sentiment (to name a few) amongst the people. The American president, with his outright racist comments, is making the use of racist language ‘ok’ again. Under him, a report suggested, the standard of how Americans speak to and about each other stooped to a new low.
Just as it was concluded in the NYT op-ed which cited statistics, the solution for this growing problem is simple. There is a need for “more good speech, from more good people.” This simply means, asking the leaders to abandon the use of smash-mouth tactics and the labelling of opponents as “enemies of the people,” and adopting a softer approach towards their critics, reminding the public of the moral values that must not be lost in the midst of all this competition for public offices. After all, it makes sense to take the words of the US president seriously.