The 2016 election has exposed the deep divides in America over race, ethnicity and culture. We are a nation of two large blocs, equal in size, but radically different in demographics and desires. These contrasts were brought to a sharp climax Nov. 8 when Americans voted Donald Trump as their president elect.
Across the country, thousands of minorities, Muslims, women and millennials in urban parts flooded the streets in protests. They were driven by frustration, fear and disillusionment in a country they felt, by electing Trump, is entering a dark and divisive era.
Trump led a campaign full of hateful comments about a variety of groups, including, but not limited to, Muslims, refugees, immigrants, members of the LGBTQA+ community, African Americans, Mexicans and Jews. He has insulted prisoners of war, proposed the banning of Muslims from entering the U.S. and has been accused of sexual assault by 12 women, among several other terrible things. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, has advocated for conversion therapy and fiercely opposes a woman’s right to abortion.
Fear is a cornerstone of Trump and Pence’s policies. Even if Trump is all talk, his ideas are giving power and voice to the worst impulses of humanity. When the Ku Klux Klan is celebrating a candidate’s rise to power, something is terribly wrong.
Sunday, Nov. 13, Trump further ignited the concerns of civil rights organizations by naming Stephen Bannon, a right-wing Breitbart news executive, as his chief strategist and senior counselor. Under Bannon’s tenure, Breitbart has pushed a nationalist agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the alt-right, a movement often associated with white supremacists who oppose multiculturalism and defend “western values.”
With unprecedented spikes in Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant fervor due to the rhetoric during the election, experts say this period amounts to the worst escalation of hateful violence since the period after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 when Muslim communities across the country were subject to record levels of assault, intimidation and harassment. This increase was validated by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). They reported that they have been flooded with reports of Islamophobia remarks.
In the U.S., hate crimes against Muslims increased 67 percent in 2015,, according to a new FBI report. There were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias in 2015, a significant increase from the 154 in 2014. The number is second highest, compared to the rise in hate crimes following the 9/11 attacks when 481 crimes against Muslims were reported. Overall, almost 60 percent of the 5,850 reported incidents were motivated by race or ethnicity, while 20 percent of hate crimes were related to religious bias. The FBI’s report also listed 18 percent of hate crimes were due sexual orientation. Finally, 62.2 percent of those crimes were committed against gay males.
More than 300 incidents of hateful harassment and intimidation have been reported since election day, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit organization that tracks hate groups and hate crimes. That is the amount they normally see in a five to six-month period. According to SPLC data, the vast majority of the claims were classified as “anti-black” or “anti-immigrant.” The next highest percentage were “anti-Muslim” incidents.
Black students at the University of Pennsylvania stated they were afraid to attend classes after being subjected to racial slurs and threats of lynching following the election.
The black freshman students were added to a racist GroupMe message on Nov. 11 that included violent threats toward them. Someone using the name “Daddy Trump” sent the messages in what was named “MudMen.” Screenshots of the account shared on social media showed the messages contained racial slurs and called black students “slaves,” a calendar invite for a “daily lynching” and images of African-American lynching.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a joint NYPD-State Division of Human Rights investigation after someone painted a baseball dugout wall in Wellsville, a town 80 miles southeast of Buffalo. The message on the wall was a swastika surrounded by the words “Make America White Again.”
Hours later, Cuomo announced another alleged hate crime at SUNY Geneseo. A swastika and the word “Trump” had been spray-painted on a dorm building.
Police in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are investigating reports of a man who approached a Muslim student and threatened to set her on fire unless she removed her hijab. The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the alleged attack is among a series of anti-Muslim incidents reported since Trump won the election.
In Royal Oak, Michigan, a group of middle schoolers chanted “build the wall” inside their cafeteria on Nov. 9.
Racist graffiti was scribbled inside a bathroom in a Minnesota high school on Nov. 9. Someone wrote “#Go back to Africa” and “Make America Great Again” on a toilet paper dispenser at Maple Grove Senior High School. The boys’ bathroom door was also covered with graffiti, including “#fuckallporchmonkeys,” “#Whitesonly,” “#White America” and “Trump.”
At Shasta High School in Redding, California, a student posted a video on Twitter of himself handing out letters with the word “deportation” written across the top to half a dozen students. The students were of various ethnicities. The video was taken down by the student after reports to the school officials.
Scrawled in chalk Nov. 8 at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette were messages saying “Fuck your safe space,” “Build wall,” “Trump” and “Democrats can kiss Trump’s ass.”
When the priest at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Maryland, opened the church on Nov. 13, he found a sign advertising Spanish services had been ripped and vandalized with the words, “TRUMP NATION WHITES ONLY.” The same message was written on a brick wall near the church’s memorial garden.
In our very own College Park, a woman and her dog suffered through a terrifying ordeal after an anti-Muslim man yelled hateful comments and called the police on her. These police officers did not respond in a helpful and professional manner.
A white police officer, feeling threatened by her protective dog, pulled his gun out and pointed it at the dog. He shot at the dog, missing, and the woman commanded her dog to go home. Several police officers chased the dog, with the white officer telling the woman to hope they did not find him first. He then removed the wrap from her head.
At a time of heightened racial and religious tensions in the U.S., many people expect the situation to get worse in the future. They feel President-elect Trump has mainstreamed Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, sexism and xenophobia.
To the President-elect’s credit, he did say he was saddened to hear about the cruel remarks said by his supporters. In an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes, which aired on Nov. 13, Trump said, “If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.”
To see more horrendous examples of the increase of hate crimes since the election, scroll through Shaun King’s twitter thread.
This election has revealed the ugliness that lingers in the United States. It has uncovered the racism, sexism, homophobia and religious biases that so many denied still existed. It has proved there is still a ton of work needed to improve this country.
However, it has also demonstrated the open-mindedness benevolent nature of others. The protests and walkouts throughout the country show not everyone is okay with the offensive divisive opinions.
I pray you will not sit in silence as innocent people suffer at the hands of others and instead speak up and support inclusive humanitarian ideas.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of David Wagner’s PublicDomainPicture’s account.
Maleeha Coleburn is a freshman journalism and government and politics double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.