By Catherine Galliford ’18, journalism student
To many Americans, the very moment Donald J. Trump officially won the Electoral College and therefore the 2016 presidential election marked the dawn of a new United States of America, the likes of which have not been seen for decades. To some, that meant a new age of anti-“political-correctness,” a time to “Make America Great Again” and the restoration of American family values. To others, it meant fearing for their lives the moment they stepped outside.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were a confirmed 202 hate crimes committed on November 9. By November 18, ten days after the election, that number had risen to a total of 876. Of those 876, a majority were anti-immigrant, anti-black, or anti-Semitic. Other crimes were attributed to anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-woman, and more. A total of 23 crimes were identified to be anti-Trump.
Reports included instances of young African-Americans being told to sit in the backs of school buses; Mexicans were threatened with deportation; one perpetrator threatened to grab a woman by her genitals, quoting the now-infamous leaked tape of Donald Trump on an Access Hollywood bus.
As a result of this influx in hate crimes, many have taken to wearing a safety pin on their lapel or bag in order to identify themselves as someone willing to help those who feel in danger of attack. Conservatives were quick to condemn the movement, calling it ridiculous and labeling participants, especially millennials, as “snowflakes.” Many insist that there is no reason to believe that the election of Donald Trump will have any impact on hate crimes in the United States. It’s a difficult argument to make in the wake of the reported crimes, especially when several of the incidents involved Trump’s name directly.
It’s easy enough to ignore the statistics and rhetoric when it has no effect on your own life. But for Alisa Trachtenberg, the mother of a young trans girl, the new reality has settled in harshly for her and her daughter.
“I know that the folks that I know in the trans community are petrified. My daughter, for example, spent almost a week curled up in a ball in hysterics,” said Trachtenberg. “She was absolutely inconsolable, not sleeping, not eating. She was afraid that people would try to attack her and that she would lose all of her rights. A 10 year old should not have to feel this way.”
Trachtenberg also reported that many other parents of LGBT+ children reported increased levels of anxiety. This fear is not limited to just young members of the community; Trump’s promised policies and especially his Vice President, Mike Pence, has caused mass concern throughout the LGBT+ community.
“My brother is gay and an LGBTQ therapist. He has clients who likewise are very worried about being attacked or even worse—being attacked and no one coming to their aid,” Trachtenberg related. “Some of his clients have changed their patterns as they walk as a result of this.”
Vice-President Elect Pence has openly supported conversion therapy for young LGBT+ kids, defunded research for HIV/AIDS, and taken a series of anti-gay stances that were deemed controversial even by his fellow conservatives. In addition to his notorious homophobia, Pence passed a series of legislature during his time as governor of Indiana that dealt a harsh blow to the well-being of women. One such law forced women to hold funerals for their aborted fetal tissue or in cases of miscarriages. Another law drastically cut funding for Planned Parenthoods and resulted in an immediate HIV epidemic throughout the state of Indiana.
But there is a long history of homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and racism in America with roots tracing back much further than Donald Trump’s or Mike Pence’s influence. Today, many are glad to dismiss such bigotry as an unfortunate blight on America’s past; with legislation like the 19th Amendment, The Civil Rights Act of 1968, and the 2014 legalization of gay marriage, it’s all too easy to brush off. Yet, this election has served to reveal the more insidious nature of our nation’s intolerance.
The exposure began with normalization. From the moment Donald Trump announced his campaign by declaring Mexicans to be rapists, his campaign was marked with the sort of racism that instantly appealed to many white, middle-class voters who blamed their economic plight on immigrants and people of color. With his promises of building a wall and banning Muslims from entering the country, he resonated with a core group of voters than eventually went on to secure him the election.
From his initial campaign announcement, Trump went on to defy all expectations. News broadcasters immediately wrote him off as too unqualified and too controversial to have a real shot on securing the party’s nation. With every new scandalous proposal, however, Trump’s numbers just seemed to climb. He was untouchable: on the debate stage, he relentlessly attacked his fellow candidates and even his long-time foe Rosie O’Donnell. After Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly forced Trump to address a series of sexist remarks made during his career at the first Republican primary debate, Trump went on to imply it was her menstrual cycle making her irritable and irrational. He also explicitly stated that Carly Fiorina’s face made her unqualified to be president, and made repeated insinuations that Hillary Clinton was mentally unstable and physically unwell despite her released medical records proving otherwise.
Worse than those incidents, however, were events such as the leaked “grab ‘em by the p-ssy” tape in which Donald Trump states that being famous allows him to get away with sexual assault. The tape prompted dozens of women to come forward and accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault, and though none of the cases were verified before being dropped by the accuser, when the nation elected a man who could very well be guilty of numerous accounts of sexual assault, women received a very clear message about the prioritization of their safety.
Indeed, the message was received by a great deal of minority Americans. Perhaps the most shocking aspects of Trump’s campaign were those which were unabashedly racist. He constantly referred to racial groups as monoliths, referring to communities as “the blacks,” “the Latinos,” or “the Muslims.” He implied that a judge of Mexican heritage, though a born U.S. citizens, was too biased to properly handle one of Trump’s lawsuits. After the family of the late Captain Humayun Khan demanded that Trump respect the history of Muslim Americans and their sacrifices during the DNC, Trump went on to imply that Khan’s mother did not speak during the speech because her husband had forbidden her to. Ghazala Khan went on to explain that she felt too overcome with the emotion of her son’s loss to speak.
Certainly there is plenty of evidence to support the claim that Donald Trump used racism as a tool to win over a key electorate. Trump supporters protest, however, that their vote was cast not in the name of bigotry but of progress.
“My vote for Donald Trump, it wasn’t out of bigotry. It wasn’t out of hatred. It was about survival,” said Anthony Miskulin in an LA Times article published last month. Miskulin lost his job during the 2008 recession and hopes to regain his former success under Trump’s presidency.
Since his election, Donald Trump has made several controversial cabinet appointments, including Steve Bannon, a white nationalist and former-CEO of Breitbart News. Indeed, white nationalism has been on the rise ever since Trump secured the nomination after the RNC. In November, a white nationalist convention focused on achieving more and more goals under a Trump presidency. Several white nationalists, supremacists, and Neo-Nazis have all remarked on the potential for spreading their cause Trump’s election has presented.
For many liberals, the only solution to the issue presented by Trump and his rhetoric is to prevent its normalization. For a nation who has just had a rude awakening to its own skin-deep bigotry, it is easy to lose oneself in the shock and fail to prevent the bias from spreading. With a cabinet full of white nationalists and billionaires, it seems frighteningly easy for Trump to fulfill the promises he made during his campaign that left many minorities in terror.
“After the announcement of the President-elect, there was an immediate feeling of defeat and grief for the upcoming years across social media, news platforms, and people throughout daily life,” said Renae Gross ‘18. “This immense fear stems from his mocking and indifference towards people with disabilities, of different races, women, and the entire LGBT community…but I also believe that so many people are now working together for good instead of accepting someone who allows such discrimination to seem okay in the nation.”
It’s true that in the face of seeing a man who fueled his campaign with divisive and often blatantly hateful rhetoric become the most powerful man in the world is disheartening, it is more important than ever that people utilize their voices to protest both the appointment and the actions being taken by the new administration against minorities. There is still a remarkable power within the people of this nation to influence and to change, and those voices must never let the Trump presidency get away with any acts of gross injustice nor let the nation forget the true nature of much of American society.
The 2016 presidential election has felt like a series of unforgiving and brutal reminders of how little progress has been made on a deeper social and political level throughout the United States, and the incredible responsibility of properly addressing those problems now lays in the hands of our younger generations, poised to deal with the Trump administration and the lasting effects it will have on the American population.