By Sawera H.
Conservative, far-right beliefs have always existed, but they are now being validated at a rate formerly unseen in the 21st century.
Seeing as the current president has made several degrading comments against minorities throughout the election, for many marginalized demographics, recent events are not surprising. The changing face of the nation, in addition to recent propaganda surrounding immigration has cast a spotlight on the state of intolerance in America. The radicalization of these sentiments have led to the rise of hate groups and racially motivated crimes across the nation.
Memorial weekend saw dark signs of the increase in racial violence. In May, an African American man at an apartment’s parking lot in California was brutally stabbed to death after being verbally assaulted with racial slurs.
A young Native American man of 20 years was killed by a pickup truck after a hit and run. This was shortly after the double murder in Portland, Oregon, where a man stabbed three people who were trying to stop an attack on two Muslim girls.
Adam Purinton was recently indicted on hate crime charges for killing an Indian citizen at a bar in Kansas after shouting “get out of my country.”
Ryan Lenz, a senior investigative writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, has said that “Trump supporters are now feeling legitimized in their hatred and wanting to act out further…It speaks to a climate of hate and intolerance across the country.” He says that the recent hate crimes are not isolated incidents.
It is important to recognize that the election of President Trump was largely motivated by racism.
Although many believe economic factors were more substantial, at its core, the presidential race was about race. Despite his support from lower class white people, it is impossible to ignore that he also won the majority of the votes of wealthy, college educated whites.
Data and studies show that a large part of Trump’s appeal was his unfriendly views in regards to black Americans, Muslims, and immigrants. He drew votes from people “threatened” by how diverse America is becoming. The anti-immigrant rhetoric throughout the presidential race addressed xenophobic sentiments often found in rural communities, specifically those about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics and cultural differences.
According to the Edison Research for the National Election Pool, 62% of small city and rural communities and 50% of suburban communities voted for Trump. Religious concerns are also eminent; 78% of rural Republicans and 45% of rural Democrats have said that their Christian values are being threatened.
Not only did the Trump campaign bring fringe and alt-right dispositions and ideas to the mainstream, administrators appointed to the White House have supported “discriminatory, prejudicial, and even hateful views of Muslim and Islam.”
Americans from the radical right are relating to these views, propagating that immigrants are taking away jobs and are a threat to safety, ignoring data which proves immigrants have been contributing greatly to the growth of the American economy.
Recent events have led to the rise in hate groups across the nation and incidences of hate crimes. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks domestic extremism, has reported that hate groups have been on the rise for the second year in a row. The group has stated that the candidacy of Trump has “electrified the radical right.” This pertains to demands to ban immigration from some Muslim-majority countries, demands for ideological inspection of those entering the country, and calls for building a wall and deportation. Anti-Muslim hate crimes surged 67% in 2015, the year Trump launched his campaign.
Anti-Muslim hate groups have practically tripled since 2015: from 34 to 101 last year. Matthew Heimbach, a prominent member of the alt right, described Trump as the “gateway drug” for white nationalism because he is allowing for political space for the spread of extreme nationalistic ideals and growth.
According to SPLC’s hate map, it can be seen that various hate groups are emerging around the country, specifically in small towns: neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, KKK, Holocaust denial, anti-LGBT, Neo-Confederate, etc. Rallies are held to further their causes. For example, in the beginning of June, a neo-Nazi gathering took place in rural Kentucky where demonstrations and speeches took place. Filled with a coalition of extreme groups like the KKK, signs with images of Hitler and Confederate flags were held. The “alt-right” has risen in fame over the past year. They embrace white ethno-nationalism as a core value, and are loosely composed of far-right beliefs, people, and groups who believe the white identity is being threatened.
On July 8th, members of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK participated in a rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. They were protesting the city council’s judgement to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Some of the Klan members wore white robes and some openly carried handguns. They shouted slogans of “white power.”
Far right conservatives are finding a backbone in the current political climate.
In essence, the frustration and feelings of extreme nationalism and intolerance that have been perpetuated for years has recently found its place due to outright xenophobic behaviors. They have gained popularity by connecting with people online through social media websites. Another important aspect of this is the increasing number of extremists operating online; even though they are not officially associated with particular groups, hate-motivated speech and action is most definitely spreading on the internet.
Gab is a social network used by members of the alt-right primarily attracting those who have been banned from Twitter. Trending topics include #MAGA(Make America Great Again), #PresidentTrump, and #AltRight. It is alarming and questionable that these social bubbles will strengthen and normalize alt-right outlooks.
Due to this upsurge of radicalization propagated by the far right, a climate of fear has settled into the hearts of many immigrants, people of colour, Jewish and Muslim Americans. Fear of discrimination, deportation, getting pulled over, attacked is commonplace.
A report arranged for Congress in April of this year by the Government Accountability Office indicates the depth of this issue. It states that“of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far-right wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent).”
This is not to say that radical Islamists are not a threat, for indeed they endanger the safety of Americans and people around the world. However, above statistics uncomfortably relay the severity of an existing, and rarely discussed phenomenon in America.
Anti-semitism, police brutality is on the rise.
In February, Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York were vandalized. Moreover, Jewish community centers and cemeteries have been receiving bomb threats across the nation. It is unsurprising to learn that groups involved with such threats and actions deny the Holocaust and the genocide of millions of Jews, while openly proclaiming their loyalty to Hitler.
Police brutality has been escalated significantly since 2017.
Trump’s first month in office, has been a deadly month for black Americans and police killings—February was even worse. Black people are being killed at persistently high rates which undoubtedly stems from underlying racism as the shooting deaths rarely correlate with the presence of threats or crimes. Less than one third of black people killed by police were suspected of a violent crime and allegedly armed, and states with larger white populations are far more likely to see the shooting deaths of black Americans by police—a black American in Oklahoma is 7x as likely to endure a police shooting than a black American in Georgia.
The rise of the alt right has been harmful to safe public spaces, including schools and college campuses. Racial slurs, hateful fliers, and acts of vandalism are becoming increasingly common.
At Texas State University, fliers at men’s restrooms read: “Time to organize tar and feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off that diversity garbage.”
“Make America White Again” was written with graffiti on a wall in Wellsville, New York. Several similar incidences like these have instilled fear in students who were afraid to go out because of their identity and physical appearance.
Fiscal conservative views of superiority and nationalism are nothing new. They have been used to justify the genocide of Indigenous people, the colonization of lands, and the enslavement and continuous oppression of African-Americans throughout history. This recent surge of radicalization is an urgent and dark reminder of what we have yet to repair in the fabric of American society, and the challenges to human rights in this new, unforeseen era.