Make America Hate Again
Reported hate crimes with racial or ethnic bias spiked the day after President Trump won the 2016 election according to an analysis of FBI hate crime statistics by The Washington Post from 10 to 27. There were more reported hate crimes on Nov. 9 than any other day in 2016, and the daily number of hate crime incidents exceeded the level on election day for the next 10 days.
However, the trend of an increase in hate crimes in 2016 did not just begin on the day Trump was elected. The number of hate crimes in the totality of 2016 that included Trump’s scorched earth campaign jumped by nearly 300 reported cases compared to the year prior, with 6,121 incidents reported the FBI last year compared to 5,850 in 2015. Most troubling, that spike that defies a trend since the agency first began recording data on this type of crime in 1992. For example, there were 8,759 hate crimes reported to the FBI in 1996.
So what is driving this new trend of not only hate but individuals feeling empowered at an unprecedented level to act on it in a violent, even deadly manner? The evidence clearly points to the campaign and now presidency of Donald Trump. Following the demonstrations in Charlottesville in which one young woman died after a car driven by a white supremacists plowed through a crowd, Trump was criticized for what some saw as a halfhearted response to the race fueled violence. Trump eventually denounced white supremacy then shortly thereafter appeared to sympathize with the pro-confederate monument demonstrators, even going so far as to describe Neo-Nazi demonstrators as having some “fine people” among them. Following the demonstrations in Charlottesville, in which one young woman died after a car driven by a white supremacists plowed through a crowd, Mr Trump was criticized for what some saw as a tepid response to the violence. He then asked if taking down statues of America’s forefathers would be the next step after leaders of the confederacy, suggesting that confederate leaders of a treasonous rebellion against the Union held the same place of national historical reverence as America’s original founding patriots.
In a March, 2018 abstract from Princeton University, social media had come under increasing scrutiny for reinforcing people’s pre-existing viewpoints which can create what Karsen Muller describes as information “echo chambers.” The study investigates whether social media can motivate real-life action with a focus on hate crimes. The study proves that the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and subsequent presidency has been concentrated in counties with high Twitter usage, Trump’s favorite tool to engage with the public. Trump’s Tweets on Islam-related topics are highly correlated with anti-Muslim hate crime after the start of his presidential campaign. These patterns clearly stand out by historical comparison, as counties with many Twitter users today did not consistently experience more anti-Muslim hate crimes during previous presidencies.
This is not to say that President Trump directly encourages or supports hate crimes. However, by manipulating many of the deep seeded fears of his base whether conscious or subconscious, Trump gains their adoration in bringing their fears front and center, leading to anger and in some cases, tragic action. The manner in which Trump has attacked Democrats as generally evil and bent on dismantling the fabric of the United States by making it a country overrun by immigrants sucking on the teat of American tax payer dollars and confiscating their guns clearly resonated with Cesar Sayoc. Sayoc was the man who attempted a mass assassination of prominent Democrats who have been openly critical of Trump by mailing pipe bombs, including two former Presidents, a former Vice President, and a former Secretary of State.
Previously in the same week, a white man shot and killed two African-Americans, seemingly at random, at a Kentucky Kroger store following a failed attempt to barge into a black church. This past Saturday, the mass murder of 11 innocent people in their place of worship by a man driven solely by his self proclaimed desire to kill Jews completed the worst single week trifecta of hate crime perhaps in American history.
While Trump may not directly insight hate violence, to those who are hate filled and disturbed enough to possess the capability to act on their hate with violence, with all of his red meat slinging rhetoric, he is their sounding board that gives them legitimacy.