During his run for the White House, Donald Trump went after and secured the votes of millions of white citizens, clearly angered after enduring years of what they described as suffering and a decline in their once-heralded privileged racial status because of a changing society that had forced them to the margins of American society and invited minorities to the table.
As the world witnessed one prominent example of the newfound voice of the “alt-right” and white nationalist groups, a deadly car attack and other hate-fueled articulations occurring at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last August, what became evident was that the crusade of white nationalists had been simmering for decades prior to its recent ascent onto the public scene.
What’s next remains anyone’s guess but crime data recently released by the FBI’s Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, suggests that even more divisive acts appear to be on horizon for America — and that Trump’s controversial presidential election has given new energy to hate.
The Center found a 26 percent increase in bias incidents in the last quarter of 2016 — when the election season was at its peak — compared with the same period one year earlier. This year, that trend has continued with partial data for the nation’s five most populous cities showing a 12 percent increase. In addition, anti-Muslim incidents have nearly doubled since 2014 with the country witnessing a surge in “mega rallies” by white nationalists.
In fact, Americans leaning to the right and hoping for a return to the days when minorities lived with very limited rights and privileges, despite being American citizens, have felt empowered since Trump’s victory to boldly engage in actions that differ significantly from the more familiar racist deeds and words that have long been the norm in the U.S. The president’s very name alone, “Trump,” has quickly become both a rallying cry and a racial insult used by whites who once felt it necessary to keep their feelings private and to limit any public utterances or deeds that might publicly confirm where they stand or have stood for the past several decades.
The chief tool they continue to utilize is social media. But they’ve also become proficient at borrowing from the playbook of and following revised versions of tactics once successfully employed by generations-old groups like the Ku Klux Klan. And without any regrets, they’re clearly determined to bring about the reclamation of an America that they believe has regrettably been lost — one in which the white race, along with their morals and culture, served as the blueprint for the country.
Trump may have promised to “Make America Great Again,” but I fear that it’s an “America” that has little room for those, like me, my family and many of my friends, who are not card-carrying members of the world’s contingency of blond, blue-eyed, white-skinned, long-privileged citizens.
Even more, and what causes me the greatest fear for the future, is the evidence before us: that white nationalism inherently includes an ideology of unbridled violence. That said, we must prepare ourselves for their continued movement along a path absent of peace. W.E. B. DuBois prophesied over 100 years ago that race would be the ultimate dividing line as America rose to the top of the world’s elite assembly of the most powerful nations. Baldwin would voice similar sentiments with his assertion that, with racism, prejudice and the unfairly-acquired economic dominance shanghaied by whites each remaining unchecked, that we would one day bear witness to “the fire next time.”
Is this really what it means to “make America great again?” I pray it is not!