Over the past few months, I have seen increasing numbers of news reports like this one about a man who stabbed an interracial couple after seeing them kiss in a bar.
“He tells them, ‘Yeah, I stabbed them. I’m a white supremacist,’” Lower said. “He begins talking about Donald Trump rallies and attacking people at the Black Lives Matter protest.”
And this one:
Wichita State University student body president Khondoker Usama, a 23-year-old Muslim student from Bangladesh, and a Hispanic friend stopped at a local Kwik Shop late on a Friday in March. In an interview with the Washington Post, Usama says he noticed a white motorcyclist verbally harassing a black man, “calling him a lazy ass, saying, ‘You guys don’t work.’ He was using racial slurs.”
He says when the man took note of Usama and his friend, he began shouting, “Hey, you brown trash, you better go home.” Usama’s friend insisted, “It’s my country. Who the hell are you to tell me, ‘Go home?’”
“He seemed to be looking for a fight,” Usama told the Post. “The man started punching my friend. My friend dodged the first punch. I got in the middle of them—I told my friend to get back in the car. [The man] pushed me and he hit me over.” He began “kicking [my friend] in the stomach, indiscriminately punching him.”
Usama called the cops and the motorcyclist took off, but not before endorsing Trump.
“He was chanting, ‘Trump! Trump! Trump!’” Usama told the Post. “‘Make America great again! You guys are the losers! You guys, we’ll throw you over the wall!’”
And stories like this one.
Tracey Iglehart, a teacher at Rosa Parks elementary school in Berkeley, California, did not expect Donald Trump to show up on the playground.
This was, after all, a school named after a civil rights hero in a progressive California enclave, with a melting pot of white, African American, Latino and Muslim students.
That has not stopped some children from channeling and adopting the Republican presumptive nominee’s xenophobic rhetoric in playground spats and classroom exchanges.
“They said things like ‘you’ll get deported’, ‘you weren’t born here’ and ‘you were born in a Taco Bell’,” said Iglehart, 49. “They may not know exactly what it means, but they know it’s powerful language.”
As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote in the New York Times,
This community of Forest Grove, near the farm where I grew up in western Oregon, has historically been a charming, friendly and welcoming community. But in the middle of a physics class at the high school one day this spring, a group of white students suddenly began jeering at their Latino classmates and chanting: “Build a wall! Build a wall!”
The same white students had earlier chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Soon afterward, a student hung a homemade banner in the school reading, “Build a Wall,” prompting Latinos at area schools to stage a walkout.
Hillary Clinton recently accused Trump’s campaign of taking racism mainstream. Given the daily drumbeat of articles like those referenced above, Trump’s continued rhetoric, and his clear reluctance to distance himself from the white nationalists who enthusiastically support him, it’s hard to argue with that accusation.
Most political observers expect Trump to lose the election, and many expect the margin to be substantial. That’s well and good–but this is a genie that will be very hard to put back in the bottle.
I believe that most Americans–including most Republicans–reject the racism, misogyny and xenophobia that have formed the basis of Trump’s campaign, but the sudden prominance of a politically significant white nationalist movement in the U.S. will challenge us for the foreseeable future.
Americans who have shuddered when considering Le Pen’s National Front in France and similar hard right movements elsewhere in Europe can no longer comfort ourselves with the fiction that we are less susceptible to that particular kind of ugliness.
For that disquieting epiphany, we have Trump to thank.