Increased hate should be connected back to Trump campaign

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There’s been a disturbing trend of hate speech, harassment and violence targeted at minorities since Donald Trump’s election and a disturbingly tepid response from the president. Recently, there’s also been an alarming rise in the number of hate groups cropping up over the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report stating that, in the past year, the number of anti-Muslim groups has tripled, going from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016.

There seems to be no end to this. Since the start of the year, 53 Jewish community centers around the country have received bomb threats, and several of these places have reported repeated threats. Last week, nearly 200 graves were vandalized at a historic Jewish cemetery in Missouri.

To his credit, Trump did condemn these anti-semitic acts and commented on the rise of anti-semitism since his inauguration, saying that it’s “horrible,” and “painful.” He said that all of this was a “sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.” It’s good of the president to finally acknowledge that anti-semitism is bad, but it does feel long overdue and rings a bit hollow, all things considered.

This most recent response, though, is better than the one he gave during “60 Minutes” shortly after the election. When asked to respond to how some of his supporters had been treating minorities, Trump said, “If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.” Problem solved. He might as well have just said, “Hey fellas, knock it off. You rascals are making me look bad!”

These responses from Trump are all well and good but feel half-hearted, and rather empty, considering the man spent well over a year on the campaign trail fomenting tribalist sentiments amongst his base and promoting xenophobic ideas. Trump’s comments feel a bit shallow when you consider his appointment of Steve Bannon as chief strategist was met with applause by white nationalist groups and neo-Nazi websites. If that’s not addressed, or seen as problematic, by Trump, then his expressions of concern and worry over the increase in anti-semitic incidents is superficial at best, disingenuous and deceitful at worst. The degree of cognitive dissonance going on with Trump and others in his administration is staggering.

Now, I’m not saying Trump is singlehandedly responsible for creating racists and bigots. These awful people have already existed, of course; they have long before Trump and will continue to exist long after. But I am saying that Trump’s incendiary, bigoted campaign rhetoric created this Frankenstein monster of hate and prejudice that’s difficult to really control now. The type of strident nativist language used on the campaign trail sort of lit the fuse to a powder keg of hatred, and it’s blowing up in different ways.

Unfortunately, one of these ways was made tragically apparent last Wednesday during a racially motivated triple shooting in Kansas in which one person died. The deceased was an Indian national studying engineering. His friend (also from India) and a bystander trying to intervene were injured. Witnesses said the shooter used racial slurs and said “get out of my country” before opening fire.

In response to the Kansas shooting, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that it was “absurd” to link what happened to Trump’s rhetoric. That statement from Spicer is, itself, patently absurd. To deny that the remarks made by Trump over the last year have had no effect on these developments is intellectually dishonest.

Some culpability – an acknowledgment of taking part in, contributing to, and exploiting a toxic, hostile atmosphere of division and hate – wouldn’t be a panacea here but would at least show that Trump was actually serious when he talked about the work that “still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.” Looking in the mirror would be a good start.