The verbal attacks of Donald Trump toward immigrants and Muslims have brought manifestations of hatred and racial intolerance to a head in the United States, according to institutions that study extremist actions in America. The violence goes beyond online insults and is comprised of attacks on Muslim people and symbols, along with a rising number of threats against Hispanic and Muslim schoolchildren. “The gains made by years of anti-bullying work in schools have been rolled back in a few short months,” says a study done by the Southern Poverty Law Center, based on a questionnaire completed by 2,000 elementary and high school teachers. According to the report, the rhetoric of Donald Trump’s campaign has encouraged students “to use slurs, engage in name-calling and make inflammatory statements toward each other.” The analysis was published in April, back when the race for Republican presidential nominee was in progress, but many of the comments referenced the billionaire, who in fact gave the study its title: “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools.”
The teachers described a climate of growing fear and anxiety amongst minority students – especially Hispanics, Muslims and African-Americans – along with a deepening racial tension in classrooms. Students, incited by Trump’s rhetoric, refer to Muslim classmates as terrorists and say that Latinos will be deported if the Republican is elected, reported the study of the Southern Poverty Law Center (an entity that monitors the activities of extremist groups in the United States). Children of at least one immigrant parent represent 25 percent of the 70 million people under the age of 18 in the United States. Of this group, 88 percent (15.4 million) were born in the United States and have U.S. citizenship. One teacher from North Carolina described cases of Latino students going to school with their birth certificates, afraid of deportation. In March, high school students shouted, “Trump,” and “build that wall,” as an organized cheer at a basketball game against a team of Hispanic peers. In Tennessee, a kindergarten student asks the teachers every day, “Is the wall here yet?”
Immigration is at the center of Trump’s campaign, as he has promised to build a wall spanning the Mexican border and deport the 11 million people living in the United States without documentation. Recently, however, he indicated that he might soften his stance regarding deportation, as it is considered by many analysts to be both impractical and economically unreliable. A survey released in May by Georgetown University showed a relationship between the rhetoric of Trump’s presidential campaign and the increase in violence against Muslims in the United States. Between March 2015, when the electoral cycle started, and March 2016, there were 180 attacks against Muslims in the United States, including 12 homicides. The majority of these incidents occurred in December, after the terrorist actions in Paris and San Bernardino, to which Trump had reacted by proposing to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. “I think Islam hates us,” the candidate had said. In December alone, there were 56 incidents, comprising a third of all attacks against Muslims in 2015.
Engy Abdelkader, one of the authors of the study, said in the magazine The State that there is evidence that violence has remained at high levels since March and points to cases occurring in the past month. On Aug. 12, in Oklahoma, a white man shot and killed a Lebanese-American, Khalid Jabara, his neighbor of 37 years and a man he had referred to as a “dirty Arab.” On the same day, Siham Zahdam and her daughter Suzanne Damra were verbally attacked in Chicago by a woman who shouted profanities and said that they belonged to the Islamic State. The women, who wear the traditional head covering, the hijab, reported that they were followed by their aggressor, as she insulted and spat at them. Images captured by cell phone show the women entering their car, while the third woman tries to open the car door and shouts profanities at them. The next day, in New York, Imam Maulama Aknojee and his assistant, Thara Uddin, were shot and killed while leaving a religious ceremony in Queens. Both were wearing traditional Islamic garments and were gunned down in broad daylight. In March, a Muslim student from Bangladesh, named Khondoker Usama, and his Hispanic classmate were attacked at a gas station in Kansas by a white male. In a subsequent interview with the Washington Post, Usama stated that he heard his attacker shouting, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” calling them “brown trash” and promising that they would be thrown over “the wall.”