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In a new, must read piece, Jamelle Bouie of Slate documents the steady, Trump-inspired rise in hate crimes and violence nationally. His piece on this year’s hate crimes concludes:
We are living in an age of political racism and mainstreamed hate, where white supremacists act and organize in the open, so we are now also living in those conditions. Through our political choices, we have unleashed one of our deadliest legacies. We can already count the victims.
Starting in summer 2015, America’s Voice created a “Trump Hate Map,” to document the Trump-related acts of bigotry, intolerance, violence and harassment throughout the country. Unfortunately, we have had to update the map with disturbing frequency since Trump’s inauguration.
Bouie’s entire piece, entitled “What We Have Unleashed: This year’s string of brutal hate crimes is intrinsically connected to the rise of Trump” is excerpted below and available online here.
These events are not isolated. They represent a growing tide of intolerance in the United States, fanned by the presidential election and embodied by the sitting president. At the same time, they—and the larger forces they represent—aren’t novel. The rise of racist reaction in politics almost always brings a similar rise of racist violence in civil society. For as much as the current period feels new, we are living through an old, and very American, cycle of behavior.
Nationally, white supremacist and white nationalist activity is on the rise, from more aggressive recruiting online, to active organizing and intimidation on college campuses. Law enforcement officials in cities such as New York have seen a surge in reported hate crimes, and the Southern Poverty Law Center reports an increase in the number of hate groups. All of this takes place against a backdrop of political intolerance. Donald Trump ran for president on a platform of ethno-nationalism, offering interested white voters a chance to express and vote their resentments against Hispanic immigrants, Muslim Americans, and groups like Black Lives Matter. His campaign brought explicitly racist groups, individuals, and institutions into the mainstream, from Steve Bannon—who rode the success of his hate-fueled site Breitbart to a position as a top adviser in the Trump White House—to formerly fringe figures like Iowa Rep. Steve King, who routinely traffics in white nationalist rhetoric.
Millions of white Americans stomped the floor for Trump’s promise to end “political correctness” and restore prosperity through tough action against foreign others, turning out at higher numbers than either 2008 or 2012. This rhetoric has a real impact. A recent working paper suggests that when people view Trump’s popularity as going up, it “increases their willingness to publicly express xenophobic views.” It’s a straightforward idea: High electoral support for a candidate who espouses prejudiced views may shape how individuals perceive the social desirability of those views. In our case, the election of Trump may have weakened norms against the expression of various bigotries, including racism. To all of this, add the return of “scientific racism” to public view and therecent controversies over Confederate memorials and Confederate remembrance, which have galvanized a broad stripe of racial reactionaries.
The centrality to all this of Trump—a reality television star turned public conspiracy theorist turned president of the United States—makes it unusual, as far as American history goes. He is a novel figure in the annals of presidential politics, a modern-day P.T. Barnum representing an extremely ideological and uniquely politically dominant Republican Party. But while we live in somewhat unfamiliar times, the larger dynamic at work is unfortunately too familiar.