I need a short break from my series on Trump pulling out of the Paris Accords, in fact I need a short break from Trump altogether. So I go in search of some non-political news about which to opine. And I come across this: A weekend of racial violence in Trump’s America. Sigh. I ask myself: Where does it end? Does it ever end? And the voice that replies to me says, “no, it never ends … the names and faces change, but it is always there … always has been, always will be.” And I take a deep breath … let it out in a sigh … feel the tears welling in my failing eyes, and then I open a blank document and begin writing, for that is the only way I know to deal with it all.
The story began, of course, with the man on a train in Portland who murdered two and wounded a third after shouting racial epithets and threatening a young Muslim woman and her friend, of which I already wrote.
About eight hours after the Portland attack and 150 miles north, Jimmy Kramer, a member of the Quinault Indian Nation, was celebrating his 20th birthday with a group of roughly 10 friends by a river in Washington state. The gathering of teens and young adults, many of them Native American, was interrupted after they sang happy birthday to him and were gathered by a campfire. A white man in his 30s drove his pickup truck toward the group and eventually, intentionally ran over Kramer, who later died from his injuries. The Quinault Nation said in a statement that the driver was “screaming racial slurs”. The driver also reportedly made “war whoops” meant to mock Native Americans and that he told them: “You guys don’t belong here.” WHOA WHOA WHOA there … hold on just a damn minute! If anybody in this scenario doesn’t “belong”, isn’t it the white dude and the man and two women who were with him, of European ancestry whose ancestors came here centuries after the Native Americans??? Hasn’t this guy ever read a history book? Was he a 2nd grade dropout??? His name has not yet been released, so I cannot find any information on him just yet.
The next day came the racially motivated stabbing of an unidentified young African-American man in Clearlake, California by one Anthony Hammond, which led to an hours-long standoff with police. Thankfully the young victim is expected to recover from his wounds, and Hammond is being held on $1 million bond.
But that wasn’t the end … not by a long shot. A day later, violent threats and physical confrontations broke out at the Texas state capitol after a Republican lawmaker, Matt Rinaldi, said he called federal immigration authorities on undocumented protesters. A shoving match with Democratic lawmakers reportedly followed, and Rinaldi was later accused of telling one of them he would “put a bullet in your head”.
And then there were the nooses. This past Wednesday, someone with no apparent love in his heart for African-Americans, left a noose in the segregation galleries of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. It was the second noose that was found within the past week, the first having been found hanging from a tree near the Hirshhorn Museum, only a mile away from where the second was found. In mid-May, two 19-year-old men were arrested and charged in connection with a noose found hanging in front of a middle school in Crofton, Maryland. And in early May, nooses were found at the Port of Oakland in California. Ryan Lenz, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said, “We’ve never had reports like this ever.” He went on to say that hate incidents — including bomb threats to religious institutions, racist graffiti and white nationalist flyers — have spiked in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. Nooses, for those readers in other countries who may not be aware, represent the days not so long ago, when black people were often lynched for such simple crimes as not saying “sir” when addressing a white man. It is a symbol of pure hate, of pure evil.
Some say it is hard to separate the latest racial violence from the rhetoric of Trump who has bragged about sexual assault, joked about attacking his opponents and protesters and made racially prejudiced remarks about Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, indigenous people and other minorities. I cannot agree. Though I have often blamed Trump and his rhetoric for the rise of hate crimes, after much thought, I blame people. Look, I heard Trump’s rhetoric also, as did most every adult in this country. But it did not make me hate people based on any superficial criteria. It did not make me think this country should be “whites-only” or revert to the days of segregation. It did not turn me into a hater. It did not make me arrogant or give me a sense of entitlement. And the majority of the people in this country would not dream of committing any acts of atrocity against a person because of their race, ethnicity, skin colour or religion. So … if we all heard the same bullshit come out of Trump’s mouth, and most of us did not feel the need to emulate his hate, then does it not stand to reason that the people who are committing these atrocities had that hate in their heart all along?
Now granted, what Trump’s rhetoric DID do was to enable those haters, to give them the sense that it is now acceptable because, “hey, the prez himself has done it”, but one cannot wholly blame Trump, for each of us has a mind. Some work better than others, and Hugh would argue that not everybody has a conscience, but I believe in the cases I have just written about, every person understands that it is wrong. It is wrong to hate, but if you do hate, if you feel that your race, your religion, or your gender is superior to others, you can still control your actions. It is wrong to hate, but what is more wrong is to act on that hate and hurt another human being. The people of this nation need to learn that and quickly. And yet … and yet, some won’t.