Swastikas painted on college campuses, young Latino and Muslim children called racial slurs in elementary schools, women inappropriately touched on the subway or while walking down the street, victory parades organized in public places by the Klan — the Southern Poverty Law Center reported over 200 “incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation” from Nov. 9th to Nov. 11th — before Tuesday, one would more readily attribute these scenes and statistics to The Purge: Election Year than to an actual election year.
And yet, I cannot say that I am surprised. What is there to be surprised about? That the election of a man who launched his campaign on the statement that Mexicans are criminals and Muslims are complicit in terrorism and the promise to build a wall has galvanized anti-immigrant sentiment? That the election of a man who has sexually harassed more than a dozen women and bragged about it and rated the rest on their looks has inspired misogynistic thought? That the election of a man who failed to reject the endorsement of David Duke and repeatedly called inner cities “hell” and defended the beating of a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protester at one of his rallies has inspired racist reactions? What is there to be surprised about? Those who claim surprise either operate on a truly naive impression of human nature or feign it in order to conceal their own bigotry.
“Surely,” many say, “racists cannot be created in a day!” No, they cannot, but they can be emboldened and their hate validated. And the ascendancy of a man who seems to share their proclivity for prejudice to the office of the Presidency has done exactly that. A rhetoric of racism coupled with an appeal for the rejection of politically-correct culture has created an environment ripe for the expression of sentiments better suppressed. Maybe it is merely a release of stress by people who feel ignored by their politics, but it comes at the expense of others, and that is inexcusable. Maybe it will all die down soon enough, but there are serious and legitimate concerns that this will not be the case. The perpetrators themselves seem to encourage the perception that we have entered a dystopian new era. Mr. Trump relied on a unique breed of dog-whistle politics, and there is a reason they say to let sleeping dogs lie.
Maybe Mr. Trump could not be elected dogcatcher, but he has been elected President, and, at this particular moment, those roles seem to coincide. His obstinate refusal to comment was both hypocritical and dangerous. And the forced “stop it!” on 60 Minutes was no better; all canine idioms aside, “stop it!” should be the Presidential response to a bad dog, not to the triggermen of hate crimes. Many of Mr. Trump’s supporters may have interpreted the delayed response, given only to placate an interviewer, as accompanied by a wink and a nod, a sort of ‘I can’t publicly seem to support racism, but you catch my drift…’
After the occurrence of any act of terror perpetrated in the supposed name of Islam, we turn to the communities to which the terrorist nominally belonged, expecting denouncements and apologies; we demand that the leaders of mosques halfway across the nation, entirely removed from the situation, say that the heinous acts of one individual do not represent Islam. If Mohammed himself were here, we would surely demand even further assurances. It is nothing but an unjustifiable double-standard to not expect a similarly-strong denouncement or apology from Mr. Trump, in whose very name hateful acts are committed.
Further, the lackluster reaction perpetuates the damaging impression that we have elected not a Commander in Chief, but instead a Grand Wizard. The individuals engaging in the hate speech and action continue to feel as if they have support, while minorities continue to feel threatened and afraid, a dynamic of which no good can come.
There is some validity to the argument that some acts are better left ignored, attention-seeking behavior unworthy of attention, particularly from the nation’s highest office, but Mr. Trump has himself invalidated this argument. After finding the time to tweet about ‘Not My President’ protests, saying “professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” and then reverse his position, praising their “passion,” it seems that the only acts Mr. Trump deems unworthy of his attention are those which he finds politically inconvenient.
Mr. Trump, this statement was unfortunately too little, too late. The campaign has come to an end, and there are now four years during which you must govern. As you yourself have stated, it is time for unity; “now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division.” Step 1: Do not encourage, nor permit, acts of discrimination and animosity.