The election of Donald Trump was an emboldening moment for white supremacists and "true Americans" from sea to hateful sea: running on a platform that expressed outright derision for "the other" and pointing to things like Islam and illegal immigration as the root of America's ills, excluding black and brown people from his vision of national greatness, offending women at every ill-advised turn, and continuing that hurly-burly momentum with a cabinet that reinforces and reinvigorates his white supremacist leanings.
News of hate crimes began flooding in almost immediately. Just a sampling:
And those were all just in November.
With such an overwhelming number of reports, the independent journalism nonprofit ProPublica decided to keep tabs on these and other hate crimes, teaming with the Southern Poverty Law Center as well as a number of media organizations, civil rights groups, and schools to launch the Documenting Hate project.
The project is not just a response to the uptick in hate crimes following Trump's election, but also to the jarring gaps in collecting hate crime data. According to ProPublica, over 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies fail to report hate crimes to the FBI as part of its annual national survey of crime in America. Though federal hate crime laws include race, religion, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, laws vary from state to state. For instance, only 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, have hate crime laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, while four states don’t have any hate crime laws at all: Wyoming, Arkansas, Indiana, and South Carolina. And if any states need rigid hate crime laws, it’s Arkansas and South Carolina.
Speaking with Broadly on behalf of Documenting Hate, Heidi Beirich says they have recorded 1400 incidents since launching in mid-November. "From our perspective it certainly looks like there have been more hate crimes since the election," Beirich said. "About a fifth of the attacks we've collected were done in Trump's name."
To understand these attacks, I think one must first understand the nature of this hatred. It's always struck me as particularly gauche that anyone would want to "take back" a country to which they never really had any legitimate claim to begin with. Or that one could and would claim such legitimacy by virtue of religion, skin tone, or checkered heritage. But to be an American has always meant more than being of and from this great nation; along the way it became a way of life, a set of values, an ideology—all nebulous in scope, but designed to elevate certain people at the expense of others.
To wit, the white American male: the angriest creature on the planet with perhaps the least reason to be. But deny them their anger and there is hell to pay. Afforded membership to the most privileged race in the most privileged nation in the world, they are still unsatisfied. They are still angry. Not that there’s nothing to be angry about—middle-aged white people are dropping like flies. According to a new study from researchers Ann Case and Angus Deaton, “a lack of steady, well-paying jobs for whites without college degrees has caused pain, distress and social dysfunction to build up over time.” White people between the ages of 45 and 54 are dying “deaths of despair” from suicide, drugs, and alcohol. Meanwhile, black people—who have always had a much higher death rate, because, well, tradition—and Hispanic people have managed to curb their mortality rates, while facing the same income struggles.
In other words, the bar for white achievement has been raised, and a lot of white folks are finding that they’re being left behind. But who’s to blame for that? Politicians on both sides of the aisle, but especially Republicans, often cite the loss of industrial jobs without focusing on what happened to those jobs, like automation and outsourcing. Trump promised to bring those jobs back without conceding that those jobs don’t even exist anymore, and therefore cannot be brought back. So then, someone needs to take the blame—the other. After all, that’s how those in power get power and stay in power: by keeping the powerless fighting among each other. In that sense, the black man, the brown man, the Muslim man, the queer man, the immigrant man—anyone who’s starting to do better than they have historically—is somehow magically to blame for the poor, white man’s lack of progress.
And so here we are at the most perfect embodiment of that misguided rage: a billionaire bullshit artist fighting in the name of the “forgotten people.” But even with their champion installed, hate flourishes; it’s fucking thriving. Because instead of addressing and decrying this animosity, Trump and his associates pretend that it doesn’t exist. Which shouldn’t be shocking; that a man who denies climate change, the legitimacy of the president’s birth certificate, then claims that same person wire tapped him without a shred of evidence, etc, etc, would deny the existence of a common truth or of facts is really right on-brand. After rescinding the Obama administration's protections for trans students, White House press secretary and podium Segway champ Sean Spicer downplayed the message it sent to LGBTQ people, while hatemongers dressed up as soldiers for Christ celebrated another victory for “religious freedom.”
If America is built on the backs of slaves and immigrants, it’s cemented together by hatred of those very people responsible for the greatness the president is so adamant about restoring. But what about our hatred? Surely, we, the other, are justified in our hatred, too. And entitled to it. But I don’t hate white people. I can’t, there are simply too many of them. I hate whiteness as an idea or as a ticket to supremacy, but I’m able to separate whiteness from white people. Unfortunately, those who commit hate crimes don’t see the people they hate, just what they represent: a loss of some kind, a shit hand dealt to them in life, the erosion of their American dream. But no matter the “kind” of American, it’s the same dream. If only we could all realize we’re on the same side and that one person’s freedom doesn’t—and shouldn’t—diminish another’s. To quote our commander-in-chief: Sad!