Racist Bullying Hit New Heights The Week After Trump’s Election — And It’s Going To Keep Rising

by Erika W. Smith

President-elect Donald Trump (ugh) campaigned on the oppression of vulnerable communities — women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, Latinx people, Muslim and Jewish people, immigrants, disabled people, and pretty much everyone who’s not a straight, white, wealthy, Christian, American, cis man.

Not so coincidentally, the communities that Trump constantly taunted, threatened, and oppressed are also the people who are most vulnerable to bullying in schools when they are children.

And now, the New York Times writes that bullying in the week since Trump’s election has reached a height it has not seen in decades.

In a quickly-going-viral piece titled “Bullying In The Age Of Trump,” Emily Bazelon writes:

Now the country has elected a man who threaded racist, xenophobic and misogynistic messages and mockery of disabled people through his campaign. Donald J. Trump’s victory gives others license to do the same. There are already signs that during his presidency, the moral values that schools and parents have been helping to instill in young people — empathy and “upstanding,” a term schools use that means looking out for fellow students who are being mistreated — will be in danger of eroding.

A spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, Ryan Lenz, told Bazelon that they have received more than 430 reports of bullying, harassment and racist displays in the week since Trump’s election — including reports at high schools and colleges.

“We haven’t seen this volume in the United States in decades, with the exception of the wave of anti-Muslim incidents that followed 9/11,” he said.

Bazelon details several examples: White students yelling “White power!” and using racial slurs at York County School of Technology in Pennsylvania; students leaving racist graffiti and Trump slogans in the bathrooms of Maple Grove High School in Minnesota; a man telling a Muslim student at the University of Michigan that he would set her on fire if she did not remove her hijab; and University of Pennsylvania students starting a racist “lynching” text thread naming black students. 

Many students of color are now scared to go to school.

Trump has downplayed the bullying, saying that “it’s a very small amount” in his interview on 60 Minutes. Let me take a moment to remind you that Melania Trump has said her focus as First Lady will be anti-bullying. Cue the Alanis Morissette.

Hate crimes were already on the rise before Trump was elected – data from the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that several types of hate crimes increased from 2014 to 2015, but none more dramatically than hate crimes against Muslims. Hate crimes against Muslim surged by 67% from 2014 to 2015, while hate crimes against Jewish people increased by 9%, against black people by 8%, and against LGBT people by 5%.

Under a Trump presidency, hate crimes and bullying will only increase.

Bazelon writes:

…kids are attuned to cultural expectations. They absorb shared ideas about what behavior is permitted and what is intolerable. If the president of the United States and his top officials wave away racism and harassment, or traffic in prejudice themselves, kids are at risk of getting the message that this stuff is O.K. after all. That should be obvious to anyone in elected office.

We have to do everything we can to stop Trump, Pence and Bannon from accomplishing anything. We have to speak up against their hateful rhetoric. We have to protect vulnerable communities. And we have to stop assuming that progress is a straight line forward, because it’s about to take a big step back.

Top photo: the racist graffiti at Maple Grove High School in Minnesota, via Twitter

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