Donald Trump says no to hate crimes. Is America listening?

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives iin Washington, U.S., February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool

NEW YORK: Just when his silence seemed preposterous, President Donald Trump condemned the proliferation of hate crimes in the United States, in his address to Congress. He spoke specifically of the Kansas shootings too, which took the life of an Indian engineer.

“…Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” said Trump, at the onset of his speech.

Not all were impressed, though.

Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, pointed out that Trump didn’t say exactly what his administration would do to curb hate crimes.

“The president didn’t say exactly what he would do to fight anti-Semitism – how he could have stayed so vague? We’ve endured weeks of anti-Semitic attacks across America and we didn’t hear a single proposal from the president tonight to stop them,” Goldstein said.

Trump may be trying to stanch a wound, but the bandage isn’t adequate to stem the flow of blood. The cuts and wounds are increasing in number, all across the map of the United States.

It’s not just the shooting in Kansas or numerous bomb threats to Jewish institutions, including in Alabama, desecration of one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia. It’s also arson of a mosque in Tampa, Florida; threat of mass killings by somebody who signed off as ‘Muslim Slayer’ in a letter to a mosque in New York; vandalism of property of an Indian American family in Colorado; threats to immigrant families in Texas and Connecticut, among other incidents, that has the country on edge.

Racial abuse is snaking its venomous way through neighborhoods and communities, like stench of foul water spilling from flooded drains. Rage, hatred and anger is sulking just below the surface in suburbs and cities. Red states and blue states.

The incidents of racial abuse and physical violence continue to grow: just this week, videos emerged on social media that show an Indian American girl being racially abused on a train in New York; a South Asian-origin worker threatened and pushed violently by a White man who comes barging into a business establishment, using the word ‘Muslim’ repeatedly. There are numerous incidents of threats and violence against the Latino community, including a man from Guatemala whose nose was broken on a subway train in New York by a man who railed against Mexicans and demanded he leave America. A WhatsApp post said an Indian woman in California was slapped by a man who berated her for driving a BMW, owning a big house.

That’s what the Kansas shooter had to say to the two Indian engineers in Olathe, Kansas, asking them if they were in country illegally, and then shouting at them to ‘get out of the country’ before shooting them. Srinivas Kuchibhotla died because to the shooter Adam Purinton, he was not a White. Didn’t belong in the United States.

It’s ethnic cleansing at a micro level. But if it starts to cascade like dominoes, the effect could be disastrous for America.

Recent numbers on hate crimes are alarming: the NYPD has documented 68 hate crimes so far in 2017. Over the same span in 2016 there were 44 hate crimes — an increase of 55 percent from year to year. ProPublica has documented more than 100 bomb threats directed towards various Jewish organizations, schools, and community centers in more than 90 different locations, since the beginning of the year.

And all this, when the economy is good. Unemployment is down, hiring is up. Stock markets are zooming. Tax cuts for the middle class are on the way.

Imagine, though, if the economy stalls. Jobs dry up. It’s likely resentment will increase against non-White immigrants. Hatred, of course, needs no rhyme or reason to spread like wild fire. But with racist groups ratcheting up chants for White America, the devil will no doubt get even more emboldened.

The other day I received a voicemail on my office phone from an elderly Indian American man from Long Island, New York, who narrated his ordeal: he got off at a station, and seeing a woman smoking on the platform, told her politely that it was a no smoking zone. The White woman got incensed, yelled at him, hurling abuses: ‘Who the hell are you to talk to me, you beggar! Go back to your country, you fuxxing Indian! We don’t need filthy beggars like you in our country.”

The Indian man walked away.

President Trump has made it clear that America will not condone hate crimes. The question is: Is America listening?

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)



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