The wave of bigotry isn’t going unchallenged

November 15, 2016

Right-wingers have been emboldened to act on their hate and bigotry, but the huge numbers who oppose Trump can counter them with solidarity, writes Alan Maass.

HARASSMENT, ABUSE and violence toward the targets of right-wing hate are on the rise since the election of Donald Trump. One organization that tracks reports of these incidents says the increase is worse than the period right after September 11.

But the hate can be met head-on by solidarity and support. People horrified by outbursts of bigotry are confronting the abuses where they find them on campuses and in communities--and planning for how to respond in an ongoing way.

The right-wingers attracted to the Trump campaign think their vile prejudices were vindicated by the election, and they're emboldened to act on them, without regard to the potentially deadly consequences.

On Monday, during a speak-out in the student union at Ohio State University, one Trump fanatic shoved a speaker--Tim Adams, a contributor to a flight of stairs. It's a miracle that he wasn't seriously injured--but Tim got up after the assault and finished sending his message of defiance.

Clearly, Trump supporters have been whipped into a frenzy. But when Trump moves into the White House, the federal government will join in the further victimizing of the most vulnerable people in U.S. society--which is why these attacks have to be confronted, starting right now.

Thousands take to the streets of Los Angeles to resist Trump's hate
Thousands take to the streets of Los Angeles to resist Trump's hate

The responses to harassment and violence so far show not only hope, but a critical ingredient in how to confront the right: Standing together in as large numbers as we can mobilize--because as the labor movement slogan puts it, an injury to one is an injury to all.

Natasha Nkhama, a victim of racist harassment at Baylor University in Texas, understands strength in numbers. "I know that things like that on campus won't happen again," she said as she walked with several hundred students who came out the next day to escort her to class, "because there's so many people that won't stand for it."

"THE WHITE supremacists out there are celebrating [Trump's] victory, and many are feeling their oats," said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, commenting to reporters on an increase in incidents of "vandalism, threats and intimidation" spurred by Trump's right-wing rhetoric.

The stories are sickening: Black children being told to get to the back of a school bus, and Latino children taunted about Trump's promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico. In Columbus, Ohio, a Muslim woman said that as she was driving with her children and elderly parents, a man started banging on the car window and yelling, "C--t, you don't belong in this country."

In Raleigh, North Carolina, graffiti appeared on a bridge reading, "Black lives don't matter and neither does your votes." At the University of Pennsylvania, Black freshman found vile racist messages sent to their phones after they were added to a racist Internet group. One Twitter user described a "[f]riend's friend, in hijab, went to her med school class on 11/9 & prof asked in front of class 'you're still gonna wear that?'"

"We already had been worried based on the fact that Donald Trump had mainstreamed Islamophobia...and this was just taking it off the charts," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations.

The right-wing Breitbart website--run by Stephen Bannon, appointed by Trump to be his chief White House counselor--claimed that reports of hate crimes against African Americans, Muslims and others are "fake."

But they aren't fake, as Natasha Nkhama knows all too well--and Donald Trump's election is directly to blame.

Nkhama was on her way to class when a white male student shoved her and said, "No n-----s allowed on the sidewalk." When another student told the racist to stop, he made it clear whose lead he was following: "I'm just trying to make America great again."

But after Nkhama posted a video of the confrontation, fellow students responded overnight. When she left her dorm the next morning, several hundred met her at the front door to walk with her across campus.

Sam Davidson, one of the students who organized for the mass escort, pointed out that if people don't respond to "little things like pushing someone off the sidewalk and using the's just going to grow. It's just going to continue to be acceptable, mainstream, not something that people are going to freak out about."

THAT KIND of mass support for victims of bigotry and oppression is going to be needed everywhere in the coming months and years.

One of the front lines to face the coming Trump onslaught is the immigrant community. Trump has says he intends to start his presidency by rounding up and deporting more than 2 million undocumented immigrants--only those with "criminal records," Trump claims, but any large-scale operation is bound to sweep up many more.

It's important to start preparing the resistance right now. On many campuses, students, faculty and staff have already started pressuring administrators to protect undocumented students and the immigrant community.

At Yale University, in a matter of a few days, more than 2,300 students and faculty members signed a letter calling on the school to declare its campus a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

This initiative for "sanctuary campuses"--already underway of necessity during the Obama years, when a Democratic president who promised to support immigrant rights carried out more deportations than any of his predecessors--has taken root in earnest since Trump's elections.

They would follow the model of "sanctuary cities," where police and other municipal agencies are forbidden from cooperating with immigration authorities. Trump has specifically promised to try to cut off federal funding to "sanctuary cities," and he might try to do the same to colleges and universities.

But the campaign to pressure administrations to defy Trump's threats and promise to protect the undocumented is a step that students and faculty can take now--at a time when the desire to show opposition to Trump has produced nightly rallies in many cities ever since Election Day.

"At a time like this where undocumented people are definitely under attack, it's crucial that there are people still out there to speak up," Denea Joseph, a senior at UCLA who came to the U.S. at age 7, told the Guardian.

In the struggles to come, we need to reach as many people as possible who oppose what Trump represents, and convince them that they need to stand together in solidarity to defend every victim of the right wing and its president.

We can try to stop every ICE raid or roundup on our campuses or in our workplaces and communities, and we will speak out against every instance of bigoted abuse and violence. We can make it clear that if the federal government wants to take away our sisters and brothers, they will have to come through us--dozens and hundreds and thousands of us who will stand between the deportation police and their victims.

Trump pretends that he has a silent majority on his side, but there are much larger numbers of people who oppose him--and who reject the bigotry and scapegoating he has used to whip up his base. That's the real majority, and it can't be silent in the face of the right wing's attacks.

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