Trump Administration Must Respond to Rise in Hate Crimes

By Michael Slater March 10, 2017

Since the first days of his campaign, Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been reckless and irresponsible, emboldening white nationalists, homophobes, transphobes, and misogynists. And, since he has taken office, his policies have further encouraged prejudice and hatred, targeting immigrants for suspicion and persecution, for example, and stripping protections for transgender Americans.

Now—in addition to the damage done by these policies themselves—we are predictably reaping the terrible, trickle-down dividends of these politics of division. Racist, nationalist, homophobic, and transphobic crimes are on the rise across the nation.

So today I joined 156 of my peers in the human and civil rights community in calling on the White House to categorically condemn such un-American prejudices, and to bring the full weight of the executive branch to investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes.

At Project Vote, we have always fought to ensure that the great diversity of the American public is empowered at the polls, believing President Johnson’s words that “the right to vote is the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.” In today’s climate, however, there is an even more basic right that is at risk: the right to feel safe in your own community.

No American should be afraid for their life or the lives of their families because of their ethnicity, religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Sadly, as the result of a wave of murders, assaults, threats, and vandalism, many Americans are afraid. We cannot have a thriving democracy when people are afraid to leave their homes to go to work or to worship, let alone to cast a ballot, attend a town hall, or meet with their legislator.

Even as today’s statement was being released, I learned that a man working in a Middle Eastern restaurant in my own city had just been physically assaulted by someone who decided—based solely on his appearance—that he was a “terrorist.”

This is not America. This is not who we are. This does not represent what we believe. This is not something we can allow ourselves to become.

The federal executive branch needs to act, and act now. The first step should be for Mr. Trump to fire his senior advisor, Steve Bannon, a right-wing nationalist whose media empire promotes and supports neo-Nazism. From there, he should make a strong statement that defines white nationalism, homophobia, and transphobia as morally unacceptable.

Then, as we said in our joint statement today, Mr. Trump should “make available the full resources of the federal government to track and report hate crimes, to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, and to aid affected communities.”