By: Chris Gilmore/TRT Reporter—
An inscribed swastika on a school’s bathroom wall, another in a dugout accompanied with the words “make America white again,” fake deportation forms handed to school students, and the “N” word spray painted outside of buildings and vehicles in NY. Sexist diatribes used against students at an all-women’s college in Mass., attacks against the LGBT community, “go back to your country” demands, Nazi “salutes” used to greet the President-elect, the ripping off of a Muslim woman’s hijab, inscriptions with the words “black lives don’t matter,” people shouting the words “white power” openly in public venues, messages that read “Trump’s Nation, Whites Only,” students chanting “build the wall, build the wall,” the rise in sexual assaults crimes against women, etc. These are only a fragment of the hate speech and crimes perpetuated against minority groups since Election Day, and according to various credible news outlets and human rights organizations throughout the country, they are still happening.
A Los Angeles woman, who encountered a man who told her he was “Gonna beat [her] pu$$y,” stated that she was in this neighborhood “all the time and never experienced this type of language before,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC.
To-date, SPLC has recorded almost 900 reports of “harassment and intimidation from across the nation.”
This wave of hate incidents and prejudice come after President-elect Donald J. Trump used derogatory words towards members of minority groups during his presidential campaign. Trump called Mexicans criminals and rapists, mocked a handicap reporter, used anti-ethnic words against an American judge of Mexican descent, and expressed sexist and demeaning remarks to refer to women, among others.
“I have experienced discrimination in my life, but never in such a public and unashamed manner,” said an Asian-American woman to the SPLC after a man told her to “go home” as she left an Oakland train station. “Likewise, a black resident whose apartment was vandalized with the phrase “911 nig#er” reported that he had “never witnessed anything like this.”
According to the SPLC, what makes these incidents unlike any others is that, many harassers “invoked Trump’s name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success.”
“Their unattractive racism and bigotry is now openly displayed without fear as they believe Trump makes their hatred of others acceptable,” said Peabody, Mass. resident, Thomas Olenio. “Some of these folks are confident enough to harass, and attack people, minorities.”
The Trump effect
The last week in November, the SPLC reported the results of Teaching Tolerance, an online survey administered to K–12 educators from across the country. Over “10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators,” and other school personnel responded to the study. The survey data received by SPLC indicated that “the results of the election are having a profoundly negative impact on schools and students.”
Ninety percent of educators reported that the school climate has been negatively affected, and most of them believe it will have a long-lasting impact, are two of the findings the report listed via its website. It adds: “A full 80 percent describe heightened anxiety and concern on the part of students worried about the impact of the election on themselves and their families.”
Other highlights of the survey include:
- Over 2,500 educators described specific incidents of bigotry and harassment that can be directly traced to election rhetoric. These incidents include graffiti (including swastikas), assaults on students and teachers, property damage, fights and threats of violence.
- Eight in 10 report heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT students.
- Four in 10 have heard derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation.
- Half said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they’d supported.
The data uncovered also depicts information regarding a sharp “increase in targeting and harassment” in this survey when compared to the results of the same survey conducted in March 2016.
“It was [the increase] most frequently reported by educators in schools with a majority of white students,” read the SPLC’s website about the survey. “The behavior is directed against immigrants, Muslims, girls, LGBT students, kids with disabilities and anyone who was on the ‘wrong’ side of the election.”
Early this week, hundreds of Boston students walked out of their classes and marched to the State House and City Hall with requests that Massachusetts’ leaders stood up and spoke out against the President-elect. The students had a list of demands for Mass. Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh. They said they were also concerned for their families and friends and as members of minority groups.
One of the students, 16-year-old Gabriela Pereira, told the Boston Globe that students were “alarmed by Trump’s rhetoric, his policy proposals, and the people he has hired.”
The students also told the Globe that “they want to show solidarity with undocumented immigrants, women, people of color and LGBTQ individuals.”
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse recently received an anonymous, hate-filled note with a threatening message that read: “Alex you’re one of the most selfish people that I know due to your ‘gay’ lifestyle. You’re going down.”
Morse, who ran his campaign as an openly gay candidate, also believes that Trump’s message of violence and hatred during his campaign has a lot to do with the current state of the country.
“I do agree that racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia certainly existed before Trump’s campaign and election,” Morse said to The Rainbow Times. “However, Trump himself has expressed openly many of these positions in a public setting, and has emboldened bigots all across the country to be more open about it. Hate crimes and hate speech have increased exponentially since the election, and this has been documented by police departments all over the country.
Officials from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office told the Globe that “complaints of bullying, threats, vandalism, and harassment have been made based on race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.”
Cabinet selections, genetic superiority, white supremacy
Trump’s messages during the campaign seem to have carried into his selection of cabinet positions—candidates that Democrats have told CNN show a way for Trump to embrace “the ‘alt right,’ an ideology closely associated with white nationalism, anti-Semitism and misogyny.” The Associated Press, refers to it as a movement that criticizes ‘multiculturalism’ and more rights for racial and ethnic minorities such as non-whites, women, Jews, Muslims, gays, and immigrants, among others.
“Its members reject the American democratic ideal that all should have equality under the law regardless of creed, gender, ethnic origin or race,” reads the media organization’s blog.
Trump’s campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, was selected by the president-elect as chief strategist and counselor. Bannon is well known as the controversial ED of the right-leaning Breitbart website, considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC, as the voice of white nationalists and “alt-right.”
In a July interview with Mother Jones, Bannon described Breitbart as a “platform for the ‘alt-right.’” A recent Think Progress article refers to Bannon, as someone who believes in the “‘genetic superiority’ of certain people and [speaks of] his support for restricting voting rights to only property owners.”
That same article refers to former KKK wizard David Duke, who has proclaimed on Twitter that “Trump’s election and cabinet picks are the first steps toward ‘taking America back’ — that is, taking America ‘back’ from anyone who isn’t descended from fair-skinned Europeans.”
Trump’s appointment of Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General is another selection that has gone sour with many people in the country. Sessions, according to The Economist, is the “Senate’s most consistent and ferocious critic of both illegal and legal immigration, [and] has several times sought to pass laws abolishing the DACA scheme.”
Sessions opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and said that hate crimes protections for LGBT people “cheapen the civil rights movement” according to Alter-New.com.
“It also struck a chord throughout the week, as I read the news that the president-elect had decided to appoint Jeff Sessions as Attorney General,” said Morse. “I got upset thinking about having an AG that wouldn’t do his part to protect LGBT citizens, people of color, immigrants, etc. It is troubling to think we will have a federal government that won’t go out of its way to protect our community, and will likely roll back LGBT protections.”
Targeting minority groups
Salem Mass. Police Captain Conrad Prosniewski doesn’t believe the election changed anyone and explained that “the fact that Trump won [is] an excuse to exhibit their biases.”
“I don’t think that America has changed because of the election. I don’t think that anybody feels any differently about themselves or about their fellow neighbor just because Trump is the president,” Prosniewski said via a phone interview with The Rainbow Times. “I know that it’s giving an excuse for some ‘nitwits’ to say some stupid things, but they are not speaking for all Americans, they are just speaking for themselves. … America hasn’t changed and the police department hasn’t changed. People will be treated with the respect and dignity that they always have been. If somebody is the victim of a crime and that crime indicates that it’s a bias crime then we’re going to pursue it as fully as we can just like we do with the victim of any other crime.”
But Peabody’s Olenio says that people in the spotlight have a responsibility to the masses. He told TRT that he had no idea that “racism and bigotry” was “so widespread. It turns out many are closeted racists and bigots.”
“ … Like it or not, public figures are role models. They lead fads, fashion and behavior. By being an open bully, bigot, and racist, Trump empowered others to openly express their bad behavior they previously hid from public view,” said Olenio.
According to openly trans man Ben Power Alwin, Curator, Sexual Minorities Archives and Executive Director, Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation Inc., the election and subsequent cabinet appointments have left him feeling “less safe due to the direct threats made by Trump to roll back trans rights and protections that we recently gained during the Obama presidency,” which also include health and elderly benefits.
“In addition, as a disabled trans elder, I dread the threatened gutting of Medicare, Medicaid, and discontinuation of Social Security, programs that my very life depends upon,” he said.
Members of disenfranchised groups do not feel safe, especially given what was attained under the Obama administration.
“I say that the POTUS sets the tone through being the most visible leader in the nation,” said Power Alwin “When the POTUS espouses racism, misogyny, brags about sexually assaulting women, is backed by the KKK, surrounds himself with racist, sexist, anti-Semitic bigots and places them in positions of power in the White House, we have a real problem with who was elected POTUS.”
Power Alwin refers to Trump’s harshness as a vehicle to hurt immigrants, LGBTQ people and people of color.
“Queer POC have endured extreme racism expressed by Trump and his supporters during the campaign, the threat of national Stop and Frisk, and even worse policies, in addition to the homophobia, transphobia, and sexism that was also at the core of Trump’s campaign,” said Power Alwin. “LGBTQ undocumented immigrants fear much more now for their futures and dread deportation. Tragically, within a few short days of the election results, hate crimes against POC and LGBTQ people have soared.”
New England hate incidents
According to the data collected by the SPLC, hate incidents have happened in almost “every state” in the nation. In New England, there are 67 hate incidents recorded on SPLC’s website. Of those, 42 happened in Massachusetts alone.
“[Nationally] Incidents by type ranked by number of reports include: Anti-immigrant (32 percent), anti-Black (23 percent), anti-LGBT (11 percent), anti-Semitic (12 percent), anti-Muslim (6 percent), and anti-woman (5 percent),” reads the organization’s report.
Local Mass. government to the rescue
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll spoke of the country’s current political climate in terms of the community, and understands how some feel “lost at best and fearful at worst about what this new change in our presidency might mean to them and their family.”
“Rhetoric that targets a segment of our population because of their immigration status, or their race, or their faith or because of who they are or who they love, is directly contrary to the values of our community and, I believe, of our country,” said Driscoll. “We’ll continue to uphold those values in Salem and stand united in our desire to ensure that all of our residents feel respected, welcome and heard.”
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is personally vested in the fight for equality.
“I want everyone in Holyoke to know and hear it directly from me—Holyoke will always be a safe place for our LGBT residents and allies,” said Morse. “We will continue to be a progressive community that has room for everyone. … It is incumbent on us to send the message loud and clear that we will not back down.”
Respect and fairness are what one local North Shore group seeks to attain through their activism.
“The No Place for Hate Committee is dedicated to combating prejudice and discrimination in whatever forms it exists through education and outreach. We also attempt to be a resource and help those victimized,” said Jeff Cohen, Chair, Salem No Place for Hate committee, NPFH. “Our tools are the people on the Committee and other organizations and people in the community who are willing to stand up for those unable to for themselves, and support those organizations, events and people who need it most and are also intent on making a difference. We also try to make our meetings a safe place for people to express whatever they want and need to and, right now it’s about conversation. …”
The embattled and biased fourth estate
For others, the election results and violence that have ensued mean that it all could have been avoided.
“People who did not vote, people who voted for 3rd party—this is the result of those actions,” said Natalia Muñoz, Freelance Multimedia Journalist. “So you see, once and for all, that every vote does matter, and that you don’t have to be in love with your candidate, you just have to love your ideals for social justice.”
As a journalist, Muñoz believes that mainstream media did not do its job appropriately to monitor and be the watchdogs, to investigate and properly inform the people.
“I think the election put on a spotlight on what already is happening in this country, and certainly, the role of corporate media became clearer—to click bait with unsubstantiated stories put forth by sympathizers from the Bernie Sanders camp, and then the Donald Trump camp,” said Muñoz. “Now, the corporate media and even Facebook are owning up to: 1) a lot of lies were published; 2) most of those lies were shared, and; 3) Trump received far more free media attention than any other candidate, without any scrutiny. It was just the ‘Trump Show.’”
The acts will not be tolerated and people should send a strong message to those committing these acts, according to Morse.
“Having a presidential candidate and now a president-elect who demeans certain groups of people provides a permission slip to bigots to be more overt in their acts of hate. It is unacceptable,” said the Holyoke Mayor. “I worry most about the example it sets for our children and young people. That is why it is so important that we call it out and send the message that any derogatory and hateful acts will not be tolerated in our community.
“The election and the long campaign process have traumatized many people due to the brutality and bigotry expressed by Donald Trump. On the one hand, the election results have made people more fearful with a sense of hopeless immobilization, and on the other hand, have made others angrier with a renewed sense of urgent activism.”
Driscoll, like Morse, believes that united in action, people can change bigotry.
“Distrust, division, and hate will never create security; they will only undermine it,” said the pro-LGBT Salem Mayor. “And when those in power wield them as a weapon to shape a community into what they think it should be, instead of what it is, our history shows that they will not find themselves in power very long. We will continue to reiterate and reaffirm our beliefs in respect for equal rights and opportunities for all residents—none of which has changed since the election. We will continue to see our role in local law enforcement through a community-policing lens, not as immigration officials. We want all residents to trust that they can call the police to report an issue or talk to the police if they witness a crime, without fear of any kind of inquiry or retribution regarding their status.”
Muñoz, a western Mass. resident said that she feels safe partly due to commitments made by her city’s police department, mayor and city council.
“I feel safe because I know my rights and live in a city whose Police Chief, Jody Kasper, made abundantly clear, as she has in the past, that her department has zero tolerance for hate crimes,” she said. “Our City Council just reiterated that the city is a ‘hate-free zone’ and the mayor is committed to maintaining the city as a sanctuary city. That is, safe for immigrants without legal status to live, work, visit, etc., without fear that federal immigration officers will be called, unless a major crime has been committed.”
Morse said that the city of Holyoke and the police department take hate incidents and bigotry “very seriously” and “will continue to do so.”
“As Mayor, that is why I have been so vocal on this point,” he said.
Driscoll turned to the past to offer a fair warning.
“325 years ago, Salem struggled with a crisis that saw faith and fear used as weapons against those who were perceived to be different,” she said. “I hope the lessons and the legacy from our own tragic historic episode here in Salem can serve as a cautionary example to the incoming Administration.”