Hatred on the Rise

More than 700 instances of hateful harassment or intimidation have been reported across the nation between November 9 and November 16. The Southern Poverty Law Center cited 206 accounts of anti-immigrant hatred, 151 anti-Black, 80 anti-LGBT, 51 anti-Muslim, 36 anti-woman, and 65 accounts of swastika vandalism. The hate crimes range from graffiti, harassment, violence, and destruction of private property. Most incidents have occurred at K-12 schools, colleges/universities, and businesses. While these statistics only account for the reported cases, many incidents have not been reported leaving minority populations afraid for their safety in this country.

In response to the hatred, one Muslim woman is turning to self-defense. Zaineb Abdulla has experienced racism her entire life. She says she was about 8 years old the first time someone spit on her for being Muslim. Now at 24 years old, Abdulla is trying to protect herself and empower other Muslim women to fight back. She is organizing self-defense classes specifically for deaf and Muslim women, who have asked what to do if someone tried to grab them by their hijab. Abdulla notes Muslim women in cities across the country reported being targeted for wearing hijabs. One Muslim student at San Jose State University reportedly struggled to breathe as a man yanked her headscarf from behind. Another San Diego State University student wearing a hijab reported she was robbed by two men who made negative comments Muslims. While some would be defeated by these hate crimes, Abdulla has turned her frustration into a movement to empower and protect women. Since the election she has hosted two “hate crime survival seminars,” during which she taught how to escape a “hijab grab,” how to identify and report hate crimes, and what steps to follow as a bystander. Abdulla hopes that her self-defense classes can help Muslim women who feel a sense of isolation walking outside alone while wearing a headscarf to realize they are not alone in their fears. “We have an army of allies,” she said. “Despite this increased anger, there’s also an increased sense of coalition building.”

Communities have emerged together to fight the rising hatred in our country. People are using the #IStandWithYou to show solidarity for minorities and to offer safety. Many Americans are also following the British example after Brexit of wearing safety pins to know that they support minorities and they are safe with them, without ever having to say so. This act of community is spreading to college campuses as well. After a student at Baylor University was physically pushed off of the sidewalk, about 300 students waited outside of her door and escorted her to the her next class. In the original incident, the male that pushed her out of the way yelled, “No n------ allowed on the sidewalk… I'm just trying to make America great again.” The female student was overwhelmed with the support she felt on her campus, and even though she was harassed, she still feels safe at her university knowing so many of her peers with “stand with” her.

In this time of intense hatred and division, it is crucial to unite the country and address the growing concerns of minority groups and immigrants about their future here. It is important for minority groups to not feel disconnected and isolated from the community. Increased negative treatment towards these groups of people can lead to events of violent extremism. A research study done in 1968 found that “that racial isolation is strongly associated with a willingness to use violence under two conditions: 1) when isolated individuals feel a sense of powerlessness in the society, and 2) when such isolated individuals are highly dissatisfied with their treatment.” While this study was done many years ago, the social environment in this county is terrifyingly similar. As citizens of the United States, we all need to come together to support one another and stop this culture of hatred or else isolated individuals may fall deeper into the trap of violence and extremism.

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