Neo Nazis and Klu Klux Klan members used to find courage in anonymity, hiding behind white sheets to spew their bile, or viciously trolling Blacks, Jews, and gays on message boards—all from the privacy and security of their parents’ basements. And when they weren’t doing that, they were taking comfort in the prejudiced, vitriolic words found on internet sites such as Stormfront and Breitbart News, a website that in the past has printed revolting headlines such as ‘Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew’, and ‘Suck it up buttercups: Dangerous Faggot Tour returns to colleges in September,’ and ‘Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.’
But reading and hurling insults in anonymity apparently didn’t provide a big enough adrenaline rush for the Alt Right crowd. But now with the election of their messiah, Donald Trump—a man who introduced himself to the political world by challenging the citizenship of President Obama, who called Mexican immigrants rapist, who proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the country, and who hired Steve Bannon, the managing editor of Breitbart News as his chief strategist—white supremacists believe they’ve found a natural ally. “Bannon will push Trump in the right direction,” says Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute. “That would be a wonderful thing.”
For many Alt-Right Trump followers, it’s also a wonderful thing to be unshackled from the confines of political correctness, freed to shout the N-Word in public, unrestrained from revealing their true contempt for anyone who doesn’t share their European heritage.
According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, there have been more than 700 incidents of hateful harassment and intimidation since election day:
Black freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania were sent pictures of lynchings and racial slurs; In Wellsville, NY, graffiti was painted on a dugout featuring a swastika and the words “Make America White again.”
At New York University, students found Trump’s name written on the door of a Muslim prayer room.
The flurry of events has left students of color across the nation terrified and feeling unsafe at their schools, places that should be a sanctuary for growth and learning. Many students and their parents have wondered with Republicans in control of most state legislators, governorships and all three branches of government, what can be done to stem the assault on religious freedom, multiculturalism and civil and gay rights? In the face of this new grim reality, some have suggested a détente of sorts with Trump, hoping he won’t be as bad as feared.
But nothing he has done since his stunning electoral victory suggests he’ll be anything other than an epic disaster for progressives. Trump’s early cabinet picks seem plucked straight from Hillary’s aptly named ‘Basket of Deplorables’, most notably the selection of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, a man who three decades ago was deemed too racist for the Republican-led Senate to approve as a federal judge; a man who also called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 an “intrusive piece of legislation.”
In addition to Sessions and the Alt Right Bannon, Trump’s transition team includes people like Ken Blackwell, who said homosexuality was a choice; and, in what can only be termed as truly terrifying, Trump has named climate science denier Myron Ebell to lead his EPA transition team.
If the last 18 months have made anything clear, it’s that giving Trump a chance is about as sensible as leaving an alcoholic alone in a bar and expecting good results.
So, what can be done? Well, as a children’s rights advocate who’s spent the better part of the last decade fighting for the most vulnerable among us, I know that the most important part of combatting prejudice and ignorance is to join the fight—become active and involved. Invest sweat equity in a cause you’re truly passionate about. Put your money where your mouth is. If you believe in a woman’s right to choose, contribute to Planned Parenthood; if you believe the threat of global warming in real, donate to the National Resources Defense Council. If you believe in gay rights, give to the TREVOR PROJECT, if you are concerned about the rights of kids with disabilities, give to a local special needs organization, and if you believe in equality and civil rights for all, donate to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, as well as MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund).
Lastly, I know that the one thing politicians fear more than anything else is the loss of power. So, when the incoming administration takes office and congress proposes an odious piece of legislation, or proposes rolling back some of the progress of the last eight years, make sure your local congress person and senators know you are not prepared to accept an American that denies its citizens basic human and civil rights. Make your presence felt by calling your local congress person, signing petitions, participating in local and national protests. And by all means, be prepared to vote in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election to make our incoming president and his supporters one termers. If GOP legislators see a Tsunami of voter discontent headed their way, they just might temper their radical impulses to tear up international treaties, slash poverty programs and gut social safety net. Your actions can trump Trump’s hate.