Since the election, as I’m sure you know, a number of non-white Americans have come forward to report instances of racial intimidation. Last night, Mark Fancher of the Michigan ACLU, who was one of my guests on the Saturday Six Pack, told us that, over the preceding 48 hours, his office had received an “avalanche” of such reports coming in from across the state. He then proceeded to share several examples, including the story of the University of Michigan student who reported Friday night that a man near the intersection of East William and State Street had forced her to remove her hijab, saying that, if she didn’t, he would set her on fire. According to Fancher, so many reports have been coming in that the ACLU simply doesn’t have the resources to look into all of them. I suppose it could all be a coincidence, but it seems likely, given the timing, and some of the things being reported, like the fact that white Royal Oak middle school students were just caught on video chanting “build the wall” at their Hispanic classmates, that there’s a direct tie to the race baiting rhetoric of the Trump campaign.
Given how many racist events we’ve seen these past several days, a number of people have been urging President-elect Trump to come out and publicly urge his supporters to stop celebrating his victory by lashing out against people of color. Well, up until this evening, at least as far as I’m aware, he didn’t feel that it was necessary to do this. While he did tell the Wall Street Journal yesterday that he “want(ed) a country that loves each other,” he refused to either take responsibility for the increasingly hostile environment in America, or ask for his followers to stop acting out in such ways… When asked by the Wall Street Journal point blank if his rhetoric during the campaign had gone too far, Trump, if you can believe it, responded, “No. I won..” [Take a second and think about that statement, and what it implies.]
Well, tonight, during 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl continued to push the matter with Trump, and he finally acquiesced, essentially saying, if it’s true that such things are happening, then people should “Stop it.” The following comes from CBS News.
…Trump told CBS News’ Lesley Stahl that he hadn’t heard about the acts of violence carried out in his name either by his supporters or targeting his supporters. He also told Stahl that he hadn’t heard about reports of racial slurs or personal threats by his supporters that have targeted African Americans, Latinos and gays.
“I am very surprised to hear that,” he told Stahl, “I hate to hear that, I mean I hate to hear that.”
And he added that he he had seen only “one or two instances” but “I think it’s a very small amount.”
Stahl asked whether he wanted to say anything to those perpetrators.
“I would say don’t do it, that’s terrible, ‘cause I’m gonna bring this country together,” he responded. Told that they were harassing Latinos and Muslims, he added, “I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it– if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it”…
I’m angry, of course, that it took this long for him to say “Stop it,” and it disgusts me to hear him downplay the severity of what’s happening right now in America, but I suppose we should be thankful that he finally asked those racists emboldened by his victory to “stop” harassing gays, Latinos, Muslims, and other people of color. And I might be willing to accept that as a step in the right direction, if not for the fact that Trump also announced today that Steve Bannon, the white nationalist head of Breitbart News Network, would be his chief White House strategist. [Ben Shapiro, who worked with Bannon for four years as Breitbart’s editor-at-large, has said that Bannon “openly embraced the white supremacist alt-right.”] And I think that should make it clear to anyone paying attention what Trump is really all about.
If Trump actually cared about those facing the brunt of the newly emboldened alt-right, he wouldn’t have to be coerced into saying “Stop,” and he certainly wouldn’t have then announced that the man who brought the alt-right to the mainstream in America would be his chief strategist.
I know there are many out there who don’t think this election was primarily about race, and they may well be right. Regardless of why people voted for Trump, though, they are now part of this. In my mind there’s very little distinction between someone who is actively racist, and someone who turns a blind eye to racism, voting for a candidate who engaged in dangerous race baiting throughout the campaign, who surrounds himself with men like Bannon, and who now stays quiet on incidents of racial violence and intimidation. I understand that some of you voted for Trump because you didn’t think that your lives got better under the Obama administration. You wanted change, and you were willing to take a gamble on Trump. Well, this is what your gamble has gotten us. You may have climbed down into the swamp with the racists for the best of reasons, but you’re still in the swamp, rubbing elbows with the likes of David Duke and Steve Bannon.
I know it hurts to hear. Several of you who supported Trump have told me since the election that you are not racists, and that you’re offended by the suggestion that you might be, just because you supported Trump against Clinton. Well, if that’s true, now’s your chance to prove it. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but, if you sit quietly by as Trump fills the White House with men like Bannon, and don’t speak up on behalf the people who are, at this very minute, being harassed by your fellow Trump supporters, you are no better than they are. You can hide behind your claim not to be a racist, but, if you do nothing, it’s meaningless. As someone who voted for this man, you now have a responsibility to speak up. We need to to join us in standing up and declaring that this is unacceptable. If you sit by and do nothing, you might as well be a member of the Klan.
And, here, because I’d rather end this post with something beautiful than with a video of our new President-elect on 60 Minutes, is video of Kate McKinnon performing the late Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah on last night’s Saturday Night Live. If nothing else, I hope it reminds you, as it did me, that you’re not alone in this. A lot of people realize what’s happening right now, and they’re just as upset, confused and scared as you are. And there’s some comfort in that.
[If you should see incidents of racial intimidation, after calling the police, “report the hate” to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who are doing their best to track the spread of post-Trump violence.]