November 19, 2016
The media has been full of dramatic stories of hate crimes following the election of Donald Trump. There have also been numerous hate incidents reported, including in Oregon schools. What we do know is the number of hate crimes nationwide increased last year by 7 percent (and anti-Muslim crimes increased by 67%), according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.
What we don’t know for 100% certain is that these crimes are a result of the rhetoric, campaign, or election of Donald Trump. There may be other factors leading to the increase or more people just might be reporting hate crimes to authorities.
BUT we do know, at least anecdotally, that many of these crimes and incidents have been committed by Trump supporters or people using Trump-related slogans, like “Build a wall” and “Make America great again.” This includes a racial assault of a woman in Hillsboro by men naming Trump and racist graffiti at Reed College referencing Trump. (below)
On Friday, I appeared on OPB’s Think Out Loud to discuss the current climate and how to best respond to these tensions that are likely to follow us past Inauguration Day. I want to make two important points.
First and foremost, people need to feel safe in their communities. A wave of fear has struck numerous minority communities this fall. This includes immigrants, Muslims, women, Latinx residents, and sexual minority groups. It important for us to defend our fellow citizens from harassment and attack, even if we are not members of those groups. The CAHC has long taken a “Not in our town” approach to hate crimes, where we stand, visibly and vocally, with those who are the targets of hate and against the agents of hate. Now is the time to be mindful of our neighbors who may feel fearful and vulnerable in this current divided climate.
Secondly, those who are the agents of hatred, including racism, sexism, Islamophobia and other bigotries, are often victims of ignorance and misinformation. This is something that can be solved with outreach, education, and calm conversation. America is at a crossroads. Will it become Trump supporters versus the rest of the country or will we use this crisis as a moment to come together? Hating the hater does not bring us forward, but helping the hater might.
As Oregon moves forward into the “Trump years,” the role of the Coalition Against Hate Crimes may be more important than ever. The CAHC has been active since 1997 but for the last two years we have existed primarily as a Facebook page and an email contact list. I would like to see the CAHC become again a more public presence in our state and work to make sure all the members of our many communities feel safe and heard. I encourage your suggestions for next steps.
Dr. Randy Blazak, CAHC chair