Trump Needs to Denounce Alt-Right Groups

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As Hate Incidents Rise, Rights Groups Urge Trump to Denounce Bigotry

December 1, 2016 by

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

Alt-right groups are on the rise in America.

Since the election of Donald Trump, an increased number of hate incidents have targeted minority groups in America, and the election results are having a negative impact on America’s schoolchildren, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

On Tuesday, the SPLC revealed these findings at a press conference held in conjunction with a number of human rights and education leaders, calling on Trump to denounce racism and bigotry and to reconsider some of the high-level appointments he has made since the election.

While Trump has disavowed white supremacists since his election, he has not “acknowledged that his own words have sparked the barrage of hate that we are seeing,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “Trump has been singing the white supremacist song since he came down that escalator in his tower and announced his presidency, calling Mexican immigrants rapists.”

In the days following Trump’s election, a high school teacher in Washington state reported that she heard students chanting “white power” in the hall. In over 15 years of teaching high school, “this is the first year that swastikas are appearing all over school furniture,” she said.

“’Kill the n*****s’” was etched in a high school bathroom in Tennessee, according to a teacher there. In Kansas, students chanted, “Trump won, you’re going back to Mexico!” a high school teacher reported.

These are a handful of the examples given in an online survey of over 10,000 educators since the election for the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project. In its report on the project, “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the 2016 Election on Our Nation’s Schools,” the SPLC found that 9 out of 10 educators who responded have seen a negative impact on students’ mood and behavior following the election.

Eighty percent reported heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans and LGBT students. Forty percent reported hearing derogatory language in their schools against these groups. In over 2,500 reported incidents, teachers said Trump’s name had been invoked and election rhetoric had been used.

While the reporting is not scientific and does not represent a random sampling of teachers, it appears to show a snapshot of the anxiety, tensions and troubles that are facing America’s schoolchildren.

Across the country, the SPLC documented 867 bias-related incidents in the 10 days following the presidential election. The data come from direct submissions to their #ReportHate intake page, social media and news articles.

These acts of harassment and intimidation are happening at schools, workplaces, grocery stores, on public transportation, in houses of worship and even in people’s homes. Most have received messages of hate through graffiti and verbal harassment, but a few have also reported violent physical interactions.

“These incidents have been ugly. And time after time the perpetrator has invoked Mr. Trump’s name. The level of hate that has been unleashed is unprecedented,” Cohen said. The incidents documented are likely a “small fraction” of the actual number of election-related hate incidents that have happened since was elected president, according to the SPLC.

In our own office, we have heard directly about similar incidents targeting friends and colleagues. A contributor to BillMoyers.com, Lee Drutman, as well as Harvard Law School Professor Sanford Levinson, a guest on Bill Moyers Journal, both received chilling, anti-Semitic hate mail at their homes in the days following Trump’s election.

Drutman wrote about the lengthy, deeply disturbing diatribe he received in a post for our site, while news of Levinson’s harassment came to us via email. The handwritten note to Levinson read: “You just got your k**e a** kicked. F**k you h**ie. We’re gonna drain the swamp at Harvard law. Juden raus!”

Instead of “feigning ignorance” about why white supremacists would be inspired by him, it’s time for Trump to “repair the damage he has caused,” Cohen said. “[Trump] needs to speak out forcefully and repeatedly against bigotry; he needs to apologize to the communities he’s injured and demonstrate they will be protected and valued in his administration,” he added.

Last week, Trump disavowed the support of a group of white supremacists who recently held a conference in Washington, DC. “I disavow and condemn them,” Trump told The New York Times, adding that he does not want to “energize” such groups. At the weekend gathering of the neo-Nazi, white supremacist National Policy Institute, organizers and attendees reprised the Nazi salute with cheers of “Heil Trump.”

Trump’s Inner Circle

At Tuesday’s press conference, Brenda Abdelall of Muslim Advocates said Trump’s remarks on CBS’ 60 Minutes calling on his supporters accused of racism to “stop it,” were a “step in the right direction.” Still, there “must be more,” she said.

Abdelall called on Trump to reconsider some of his recently selected top advisors including Steve Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart news, which Bannon described as a “platform for the ‘alt-right,’” a white nationalist movement; Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who holds hard-right views on Muslims and Islam; and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has been dogged by accusations of racism throughout his career.

“Otherwise the selection of these individuals indicate that the bigoted, divisive rhetoric that we saw in the campaign will continue as a matter of policy and practice in the White House,” Abdelall said.

In a conversation last week, Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said he was “concerned and troubled” about Trump’s selection of Bannon. “Steve Bannon described his effort to make Breitbart ‘the platform for the alt-right.’ He has largely succeeded in that regard because it’s really become a haven for anti-Semites and bigots of all stripes.”

He also expressed concern about the National Policy Institute, describing them as some of the “worst elements” in our society. “They talked about — literally, about ‘a new right that will openly embrace white rational consciousness or white political identity’… Having people in the Oval Office that associate with this movement is at best disturbing.”

Greenblatt said that since the election, the ADL’s 26 field offices across the country have been “inundated with calls” about verbal harassment, vandalism and some physical assaults targeting Jewish people, Mexican-Americans, Muslims, immigrants and members of the LGBT community.

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