2018 Civil Rights Report: Invoking Trump, Provoking Fear: The Unprecedented Nature of the 45th President as a Symbol of Hate


Few minority communities in the United States, if any, have remained unscathed by hate in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The above listed expressions of hate target different communities and gleefully invoke Trump’s name as the source of impending violence and discrimination. They are merely three of dozens of such instances gathered by CAIR in 2017.

The 45th president’s brazen display of animosity and prejudice has emboldened individuals seeking to express their bias and made the very word “Trump” an encapsulating and potent symbol of wide-ranging racial and religious animus. Both adults and children have begun to use “Trump” to taunt and harass strangers, colleagues, and classmates.

Pause for a moment and let that sink in: people are invoking the name of a sitting U.S. president – the highest executive office in the nation – as a symbol of hatred and prejudice to inspire fear in racial and religious minorities. This is unprecedented in American history.

Throughout the course of his presidency, and well before it, Trump has hurled dangerous, divisive, and threatening language toward a plethora of American minority groups. He has used his rhetoric to inflame hate and fear among his supporters towards American Muslims, African Americans, Jewish Americans, the Latinx community, refugees, and immigrants, to name but a few.

In addition to his well-documented explicitly bigoted statements, such as calling Mexicans “rapists,” and alleging that “Islam hates us,” Trump has made avid use of well-known racist, white-supremacist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic “dog-whistles.”

For example, Trump tweeted a condemnation of the Diversity Visa Lottery (DVL) program and advocated instead for a “merit based” immigration system following a truck attack in New York, though there was no evidence that the perpetrator had been a part of DVL. The term diversity has “evolved into a bit of white supremacist profanity” and is part of the theory of “white genocide,” which holds that white people are under attack due to immigration and diversity efforts.

One can find another example of such behavior after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally. Following the altercations between white supremacists and counter protesters, Trump blamed “both sides” and defended the neo-Nazis by saying that they included “some very fine people.” This stance was lauded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

As a consequence of his utilization of his political power and platform for this type of signaling, those holding prejudiced, xenophobic, and bigoted views see one of their own in Trump. Ironically, in April of 2017, a white nationalist leader who had assaulted a black woman filed a suit in a federal court, claiming he “acted pursuant to the directives and requests of Donald J. Trump and Donald J. Trump for President,” and therefore, if he was found guilty, the liability “must be shifted to one or both of them.”

This situation clearly encapsulates how Trump’s behavior has provided an opaque veneer of legitimacy to bigotry, racism, and xenophobia in the public sphere. As author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates eloquently put it, “Trump moved racism from the euphemistic and plausibly deniable to the overt and freely claimed.”

These facts are further substantiated through the results of a survey conducted by a group of university researchers to determine the relationship between the fear of threat and Trump. The researchers found that Trump “built a monopoly on threat, and has used it to steel his coalition against anyone who might look different or hold different views.” They further state that this “monopolization of fear” is a “devastating and dangerous political tool.”

In addition to peddling dangerous and dehumanizing rhetoric, the Trump administration has advanced and accelerated discriminatory policies that target the communities towards whom he has expressed animosity and Otherized. This includes the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the imposition of the unconstitutional Muslim Ban.

The confluence of unfair policies and uninhibitedly biased rhetoric is correlated with increases in incidents of aggression and violence toward not only the American Muslim community, as demonstrated in this report, but all communities who are demonized. The drumming up of fear has an immediate and direct impact on the everyday lives of fellow Americans.

To move this country from an atmosphere of fear to an environment of respect, it is important that fair-minded Americans continue to take every opportunity to speak up against hate and injustice.




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