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United States

Hate incidents swell after Trump election

Experts say the country is experiencing the most turbulent surge in racist incidents since 9/11.
14 Nov 2016 – 07:24 PM EST
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A Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, was set on fire late Tuesday night. Authorities discovered the words "Vote Trump" painted on the church. Crédito: AP

Update, November 15, 2016, 6:30 p.m. EST: We originally reported more than 300 incidents of harassment and intimidation since election day. The number has now surpassed 430, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Reports of hate have emerged at a steady tick since early Wednesday morning, from painted swastikas and human walls, to a letter sent to a Muslim high school teacher telling her to “hang herself” with her headscarf.

A black female university student was assaulted by white males yelling “Trump, Trump, Trump,” and an Episcopal church in a heavily Latino community near Washington, D.C., vandalized with a “Trump nation, whites only” message.

The incidents of harassment, intimidation and assaults number in the hundreds in the wake of Tuesday’s presidential election, mostly involving minorities.

On Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination, told Univision it had counted more than 300 such “election-related” episodes since last week, mostly anti-black and anti-immigrant.

Though SPLC does not have comparable data covering such a short period of time after a major political event, it says the number of reported incidents in the past week marks a sharp rise.

“These are reports of physical and verbal harrassments as well as vandalism and other epithets directed at individuals,” said Ryan Lenz, the Senior Writer for the SPLC's Intelligence Project and Editor of its Hatewatch blog. “There’s been a definitive uptick of reported incidents.”

Experts say the country is experiencing the most turbulent moment for race relations since September 11, 2001, which spawned an unprecedented rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate incidents. Obama’s 2008 election, too, was a catalyst for racist groups.

“Historically these episodes are not new in American history,” said Juan Cartagena, a constitutional and civil rights attorney and the President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “But in my lifetime, this is unprecedented.”

Amidst the swell of incidents, the F.B.I. reported Monday that hate crimes rose by 7 percent in 2015 compared to the year before. In its Hate Crime Statistics report, the F.B.I. cataloged a total of 5,818 hate crimes in 2015, including assaults, bombings, threats and property destruction against minorities, women, the LGBT community and others.

Among the victims of hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry (a total of 4,216 victims), 52.2 percent where victims of anti-black bias, 18.7 percent anti-white, and 9.3 percent anti-Hispanic or Latino.

Over 21 percent of hate crimes were prompted by religious bias, and 18.1 percent resulted from sexual-orientation bias.

Law enforcement officials acknowledge that the number of hate crimes may be much higher, because many local agencies do not report.

Attacks against Muslim Americans saw the biggest surge in 2015, with a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim assaults, attacks on mosques and other hate crimes over the year before. It was the highest total since 2001, when the aftermath of Sept. 11 saw 480 attacks, according to analyses of F.B.I. data.

A similar increase in anti-Muslim hate has been seen in parts of Europe. In the United Kingdom, an annual survey by monitoring group Tell MAMA found a 326 percent rise in anti-Muslim incidents in 2015.

Throughout his campaign, Trump repeatedly made comments that many people felt were racially motivated. He pledged to ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S., called Mexicans rapists, questioned Obama’s birthplace, asserted that black and Latino citizens commit most violent crimes in cities, and shared an anti-Semitic meme created by white supremacists.

That was nothing compared to the avalanche of racist forces that his campaign appeared to unleash. There was a surge in white nationalist and white supremacist rhetoric and support, highlighted by the endorsement of Trump by The Crusader, the newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan.

On Sunday Trump named Steve Bannon, former president of the extreme right wing Breitbart News, his "chief strategist and senior counselor." Breitbart has been largely denounced as a hate site, regularly publishing misogynist, racist and xenophobic content.

Bannon's new role was seen by many as a sign that Trump has no plans to break ties to the alt-right and white nationalism.

“During the eight years after the election of Obama most people pontificated that ‘we live in a post-racial America,’” Lenz said. “Now we can say definitively that we do not.”

However, after widespread calls for him to address the racist acts and comments of some of his supporters, Trump used an interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday to tell his supporters to stop intimidation and harassment of minorities.

“Stop it,” Trump said, turning to the camera.

The latest wave of racially charged graffiti, signs, assaults, harassment and other episodes began appearing online just hours after the election results on Wednesday. Thousands of social media users began to share the incidents; many went viral.

“So furious,” New York Daily News Senior Justice Writer Shaun King tweeted around Noon. “The Trump effect is already hitting kids hard in schools. We knew this would happen.”

Over the coming days, King tweeted a steady stream of similar reports, which he wrote numbered in the "hundreds and hundreds."

On Thursday, The New York Times called on Trump in an op-ed to “immediately and unequivocally repudiate the outpouring of racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic insults, threats and attacks. Tell them this is not what you stand for, nor is it what your new administration will tolerate.”

Cartagena said Trump’s words on 60 Minutes were a start. But, “I would like to hear a little more elaboration from him. We need more of that. We need him and his leaders to tamper down.”

“No one should fear walking down the street, speaking in Spanish in public, buying a Spanish newspaper in public,” he added.

The SPLC has set up a web form to collect reports of incidents of hateful intimidation and harassment. It encourages victims to report incidents to law enforcement first.

Experts warn the incidents are not likely to stop soon.

“If you feel you’re the subject of prejudice or bias, let it be known now more than ever,” Lenz said. “To be silent now is to let the advances of the civil rights movement go to waste. Speak and speak loudly.”

If you have experienced a racist incident, you can contact Univision to share your story. Write to us via WhatsApp: 305-301-2625.

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