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Hate and Discrimination

Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism in Trump’s America

Four people sit at a desk for a panel on white nationalism and the rise of hate crimes
News & Analysis

On April 25, a coalition of advocates hosted a panel on Capitol Hill to help bring attention to the increase in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism since the election of Donald Trump. The panel focused on legislative response and solutions, highlighting Congress’ critical role in addressing these disturbing trends. The participating groups included the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Heather Heyer Foundation, the Arab American Institute, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The first speaker, Kristen Clarke from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, discussed how there has been an undeniable rise of groups inside the U.S. with an agenda since Trump was elected. She stated that the conversations for policy solutions are often “derailed” by false equivalencies and emphasized that there are practical solutions that can be implemented. She called on Congress to stop making excuses and address the crisis at hand.

Cassie Miller of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) discussed how social media platforms have been used as dangerous recruiting tools in the white nationalist movement. While companies like Facebook have started making attempts to monitor their sites for radical white nationalist figures, others like Twitter have ignored the problem entirely. She stated that it’s a “myth” that social media is too big to be monitored, as SPLC has flagged many dangerous groups online without a large team or endless resources. When asked if she was worried about these groups moving to the dark web if they are banned from more prominent websites, she explained that getting off those platforms would at least curtail recruiting tactics that are giving white nationalist groups more power.

Alfred A. Wilson, cofounder of the Heather Heyer Foundation, discussed what it was like to be in Charlottesville the day Heather Heyer was murdered by a white nationalist in the infamous attack in 2017. He stated that Charlottesville will never be the same, and how even with its rich history, it will always be known for the violence that ensued. Finally, he stated that it’s a sad reality that a woman had to die for people to pay attention to issues people have been facing for years, but hoped it would lead to tangible change.

Maya Berry from the Arab American Institute shared that data collected by the federal government reflects a 20 percent increase in hate crimes in the past two years, which is already an appalling statistic. She also stated that there were problems with how hate crimes were classified, indicating that the federal government does not include all incidences that fit this description in their data. A study done by the Institute indicated that for certain groups including Arab Americans, there was an almost 100 percent increase in the number of hate crimes committed since 2016.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has almost entirely ignored this issue, and has instead focused on furthering his xenophobic agenda through policy changes like the Muslim ban. Not only has Trump’s rhetoric emboldened white terrorists, but under his lead, the Department of Homeland Security has reportedly eliminated the unit tasked with tracking and combating domestic terrorism, further perpetuating the security threat for Americans who are already being systematically targeted by these groups.