A rash of bullying, heinous rhetoric and harassment, and vile crimes motivated by racist hate of those who appear different followed in the wake of last week’s presidential election and Donald Trump’s victory. Muslim women were attacked for wearing a hijab. Nazi graffiti has been found near places Muslims and Jews congregate. Confederate flags were flown at Veterans Day parades. The Ku Klux Klan planned a victory parade in North Carolina to celebrate Trump’s victory.
Many were concerned of such a victory precipitating an outbreak of racially-motivated violence considering Trump’s racist rhetoric on the campaign trail as well as his refusal to denounce hate groups who supported his candidacy. Not since the days following the September 11th terrorist attacks has the United States experienced this volume of hate crimes. In fact, according to the Hate Crimes Statistics report from the Southern Poverty Law Center there have been more hate crimes in the period following the election than there were following September 11th. The question many were left wondering was, what would Donald Trump do about it?
When asked by 60 Minutes about his response to this wave of hate crimes, Donald Trump said he was “so saddened” by the attacks. He looked straight into the camera and told those perpetrating the crimes to “Stop it”. He also declared that those protesting his election due to fears of his administration would engage in, or at least implicitly condone, such behavior should not be afraid. But what does this accomplish?
These attacks occurred as a direct result of Trump’s victory. Those individuals and groups who may have had leanings towards such crimes were emboldened by his words and his policy positions as well as his refusal to dissuade the more fringe, racist faction of his supporters. While Trump has been seemingly conciliatory following his election and has appeared to soften at least of his stances, he still maintains a hard-line position on immigration. In the same interview in which he told his supporters to stop their hate crimes he also claimed not to have heard about the attacks and blamed the media for sensationalizing them. Furthermore, he has hired Stephen Bannon to be chief strategist and senior counselor for his administration, an appointment which Democrats are already demanding he rescind. This is most likely due to the fact that Bannon is a foremost advocate of the “alt-right” movement which tends to promote views were are racist, sexist, and misogynistic. The majority of those praising Bannon’s appointment are white nationalists.
So how much credit does Donald Trump deserve for telling people to stop their hate crimes? Attacks and harassment motivated by racism have occurred all over the country. Prior to the interview Trump made no other efforts to address them. In the days after his interview he has made no subsequent attempts to prevent further attacks. He has not addressed the issue on social media. The attacks have not stopped. Should they really be expected to stop? Donald Trump spent the better part of a year and a half fueling such hatred in the name of political strategy. Does one interview halt this movement? Especially when Trump’s own actions continue to implicitly condone these feelings.
Donald Trump has said he will be a president for everyone. Many disagree and fear what his presidency will mean for them, or their family, or their friends, or their colleagues who just happen to be Muslim or Jewish or just brown. How will Donald Trump reap what he has sewn? The fact that he was forced to tell the supporters he sowed to cease the actions they saw to reap because Trump won is ridiculous on its face. That such admonition was necessary is incredulous and a condemnation of Donald Trump in and of itself.
Donald Trump does not deserve credit for a half-hearted attempt to address hate crimes in which he is complicit.