Donald Trump, Hate Crimes and Racial Vilification

What happens when the future President of the United States regularly resorts to false statistics and sloppily-veiled racial insinuations designed to vilify minorities in America? And then what happens when a portion of that President’s fanbase is already prone to bigotry? Well, as the old adage goes: Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can never…be underestimated in unleashing a wave of hate crimes. Or something like that.

From the moment he glided down that gaudy escalator to announce his candidacy for President of the United States all the way up to his first sit-down interview as President-Elect on CBSN’s 60 Minutes last Sunday, Donald Trump has fed his enthusiastic supporters a steady, fast-food-quality diet of grossly falsified statistics and misinformation, usually surrounding race, ethnicity and religion. During his latest interview, in one breath the incoming POTUS is “very surprised” and “saddened” to learn that some of his supporters are carrying out harassment and hate crimes directed toward Muslims, Hispanics, African-Americans, LGBTQ folks, and women. The New York Times and ABC News had just reported on the FBI’s announcement that hate crimes are up by 7 percent as a whole since 2015, with Muslims bearing the brunt, suffering a jarring 67 percent increase in hate crimes. The FBI also reported a sharp spike in hate crimes and racially-motivated acts of harassment, bullying and vandalism since Election Day.

Trump, thoroughly perplexed by this, looks into the camera during his 60 Minutes interview to emphatically tell his supporters to “Stop it!” And yet, during the same interview, he once again inflates crime statistics regarding Mexican undocumented immigrants, somehow never making the connection between his reckless words and his followers ramped-up rage toward minorities. That’s the problem with racial vilification. It doesn’t just scare people into supporting your questionable political policies. It fosters a climate of bigotry that will inevitably manifest itself in the public square. Trump systematically demonized minorities in this country, but just doesn’t understand why some of his followers are suddenly erupting in violence and hatred toward them in the wake of his victory? For those of us paying attention, we know Trump’s divisive tactics have been a hallmark of his campaign since day one. Literally.

Trump made headlines in June 2015 by famously kicking-off his presidential bid by describing the vast majority of Mexican illegal immigrants as rapists and drug dealers bringing crime into the country. Now, as President-Elect, he vows to promptly deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants once he comes into office. This is a goal as lofty as it is frightening, considering it exceeds the total number of illegal immigrants deported during the last 8 years of the Obama Administration. But the real scandal here is the rationale Trump cites behind the number of desired deportations. These particular undocumented immigrants to go first, Trump says, are the ones who are criminals: the “gang leaders” and “drug dealers,” up to 3 million of them. Trump just painted 25 percent of the illegal immigrants in this country as dangerous and threatening criminals on Primetime Television. Twenty. Five. Percent. And yet, study after study reveals less than 1 million undocumented immigrants have criminal records, let alone dangerous records. The non-partisan organization, The Migration Policy Institute, estimates the number of undocumented immigrants with criminal records around 820,000 and the vast majority of those crimes are nonviolent. The most common crime among undocumented immigrants is the most obvious: simply crossing the border illegally. This means the President-Elect, the man who is supposed to be the informed mouthpiece to the nation, just erroneously TRIPLED the number of illegal immigrants with criminal records and dramatically inflated the number of violent and threatening crimes among them. This is not an isolated incident.

Remember, for instance, when Trump retweeted an undeniably racist meme depicting a shocking number of African-Americans as violent killers. On November 22, 2015, Trump retweeted a meme alleging that 81 percent of white homicide victims are killed by black people. The meme featured a black man with a gun held sideways while wearing a bandana on his head. The post also claimed that only 2 percent of black homicide victims were killed by whites, and only 1 percent killed by police. The post cites the “Crime Statistics Bureau — San Francisco,” an organization that doesn’t even exist, as the source for the stats. Of course, the information Trump carelessly tweeted out to his 15 million-plus Twitter followers was not even close to actual FBI statistics.

The meme inflated the percentage of whites killed by blacks nearly 5.5 times higher than reality. Let that sink in. A then serious contender for the presidency floated out numbers that more than quintupled the rate of “black on white” murders. Not doubled, not tripled…QUINTUPLED. That kind of margin of error would not be acceptable for Trump back when he was just a reality TV host, let alone a candidate for the highest office in the land. Take a look at some of the other false claims Trump has *repeatedly* made about Mexicans, African-Americans, and Muslims during his presidential campaign. These statements together paint a picture of a calculated effort designed to stir up fear and resentment toward minorities. After all, you cannot scapegoat minorities for all our problems without first vilifying them. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Who has time for that when we have a wall to build and Muslims to register?

Vilifying Muslims

American Muslims rejoiced on 9/11:

“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down,” Trump said at a Nov. 21 rally in Birmingham, Ala. “And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.” Trump doubled down on this, repeatedly claiming he saw a “heavy arab population” in Jersey City cheering on TV as the Towers came crashing down. This claim has been debunked again and again.

-A quarter of Muslims want violent harm to befall us:

Trump claimed 25 percent of Muslims approve of violence against Americans on December 7th, 2015 in a campaign statement.

-Muslims don’t assimilate to American life:

“Assimilation has been very hard. It’s almost — I won’t say nonexistent, but it gets to be pretty close. And I’m talking about second and third generation. They come — they don’t — for some reason, there’s no real assimilation.” — Donald Trump on Hannity June 15, after the Orlando Shooting.

-Muslim refugees are a terroristic ruse:

Trump claiming most refugees are “strong and powerful men” and compared millions of Syrian refugees as a “better, bigger, more horrible version of the legendary Trojan horse.” -Second Presidential Debate, repeated numerous times along campaign trail. “There look like very few women. Very few children.” — Donald Trump said of Syrian Refugees on Thursday, January 14th, 2016 in the South Carolina presidential debate.

-Muslim refugees bring inordinate levels of crime wherever they go:

Trump overstates increased crime rates in Germany, blaming muslim refugees, on Wednesday, May 4th, 2016 in an interview with NBC News.

Vilifying African-Americans

-Predominantly black cities, such as Ferguson and Oakland are “among the most dangerous in the world.” — Donald Trump, May 16, 2016, during an Interview with the New York Times.

“Inner-city crime is reaching record levels. African-Americans will vote for Trump because they know I will stop the slaughter going on!”-Trump tweeted this on August 29, 2016

“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” — Trump, to a predominantly white crowd in Dimondale, Michigan at a rally. And again, Trump claiming Black Youth rate of unemployment at 59 percent. -Trump, June 10, 2016

“You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities,” at a rally over the summer, trying persuade black voters to give him a chance. “African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before — ever, ever, ever.” -at a rally in North Carolina

Vilifying Mexicans/Illegal Immigrants

-In January 2016, A Trump Campaign ad showed droves of Mexicans pouring over the “U.S. border,” but it was actually footage of immigrants in Morocco.

-Mexico sends America “the bad ones.”

“Our leaders are stupid, our politicians are stupid, and the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning, and they send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them, they don’t want to take care of them.” — Donald Trump at the first GOP debate on August 16, 2015

-Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are going to state and federal penitentiaries, July 2015 during an interview with Fox Business.

-Trump nearly tripled the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. to up to 34 million during an MSNBC interview on July 24, 2015.

The Consequences

Donald Trump actively courted the segment of Americans thirsty for this kind of rhetoric. Well, he gave them a drink, spiked it and got them drunk.

According to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) report, an organization rated as one of the top firms for accuracy by the Wall Street Journal, a disturbing percentage of Trump supporters are prone to racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry. The poll found that:

  • 60% Support banning Muslims from entering the United States
  • 50% Support the Confederate flag hanging on the Capitol grounds
  • 30% Support shutting down all mosques in the United States
  • 30% Wish the South won the civil war
  • 25% think Islam should be illegal in the United States
  • 25% Support the policy of Japanese Internment
  • 20% Support banning homosexuals from entering the United States
  • 10% Say Whites are a superior race
  • (11% aren’t sure one way or another)

PPP has also noted that, “66% of Trump’s supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12% that grant he’s a Christian. 61% think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21% who accept that he was. And 63% want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, to only 20% who want to keep things the way they are.”

Another poll conducted by NBC back in February yielded similar numbers, with 67 percent of Trump voters harboring negative views of American Muslims and 87 percent supporting Trump’s “total ban” on Muslim immigration. Even more disheartening, Two studies from the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) and The Pew Research Center revealed “racial anxiety” as the largest driving force behind people supporting Donald Trump.

Trump has hammered these messages to his supporters on a constant loop. Rally after rally. Interview after interview. Tweet after Tweet.

Muslims, Mexicans illegals, and black people are dangerous. Mexican illegals are taking over the country with millions committing violent crime. Muslims don’t assimilate to American life. At least a quarter of them condone violence toward Americans. Refugees are predominantly ‘powerful’ men who are most likely incognito terrorists. Black people kill white people at an alarming rate. Black people are overwhelmingly uneducated, violent, and moochers off the government. Black people live in areas worse than war zones and are committing unprecedented levels of crime. Trump supporters have “learned” all of this while being promised that Donald Trump alone can fix it. That he will get the Mexicans and Muslims out of our country and build a wall to keep them out. He will spy on mosques or shut them down. He will register the Muslims, bring back waterboarding and torture, and kill the families of terrorists. He will bring back “Stop-and-Frisk” and restore “law and order” in our “inner cities.”

Donald Trump spotted the soil in our political landscape already teeming with sprouts of racial and cultural tensions. Instead of weeding those tensions out, he nourished them. He watered them and heaped on the manure. And the rest of us are now witnessing the harvest. So no, Mr. Trump, you are not allowed to feign shock and sadness because of the weeds currently overtaking the garden. You do not get a pass because you took two seconds to mutter the words “stop it” after almost two years of injecting poisonous stereotypes into the mainstream public discourse. You do not get to look bewildered over all the racial slurs, physical attacks, and swastika graffiti popping up across the country, as if you bear no culpability. The Bible, that book you claim as your all-time favorite, teaches us a little something on the subject. “Do not be deceived…for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”

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