By Robert Weiner and John Black
The Poway, California, San Diego suburb shooting is just the latest in a series of religious attacks, taking place exactly six months to the day since the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh--sadly the largest attack on the Jewish community in American history.
According to local police, the 19-year-old posted a manifesto online rife with antisemitic language grossly elucidating his desire to kill Jews. He also set fire to a California mosque last month. The suspect attributed his inspiration to the Christchurch, New Zealand, and Tree of Life shootings.
The number of hate groups reached an all time high in 2018, totaling 1,020 across the entire country. In fact, over the four years since Trump began his campaign and subsequent presidency the number of hate groups has grown by 30 percent, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
At the beginning of 2015, under President Obama, hate groups had reached a 10-year low. But Trump's 30-percent increase completely derails the progress we made as a country.
On the final day of Passover, at the San Diego-area synagogue a 19-year-old man opened fire on the Chabad of Poway congregation, killing 60-year-old Lori Kaye and injuring three others, including the rabbi.
These types of shootings and hate crimes are horrible tragedy that has become unsurprising in modern America.
It is disingenuous to deny that hate groups and hate crimes are inspired by Trump's rhetoric. In 2017, chanting "Jews will not replace us," white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the Unite the Right rally. Trump initially defended them, claiming there were "very fine people on both sides." On Friday, Trump stood by his original statement, but as Joe Biden just stated, this type of dialogue is a direct threat to "the soul of America."
In March in New Zealand, an Australian man, who stated his support of Donald Trump as a "symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose," murdered 50 people and injured 50 others at two Islamic mosques. And now, a community in San Diego has joined Pittsburgh in their mourning.
Despite the connections and outright support of the President, Trump has refused to accept any responsibility or acknowledge his rhetoric's influence.
But facts are facts: white nationalism is on the rise in America. Trump's divisive politics spurn the reemergence of the same forces that fueled the creation of the Klan. He is the General of a burgeoning hate war--his words and actions, his flagrant ignorance to their repercussions, pose more of a real national emergency than immigration at the border.
One of Trump's first acts as President was the ban on travel to the US from Muslim countries. He essentially told the nation that discriminating against people because of their race or religion is OK.
He may be quick to publicly denounce antisemitism, but he leaves behind the people he doesn't like--black, Muslim and Hispanic. His recent comments condemning Cong. Ilhan Omar and standing by his "very fine people" defense only bolsters the growth of hate groups in the U.S. The New Yorker called the continued denunciation "dangerous bullying," but let's be clear: this is more than bullying. His campaign announcement that "I'll pay the legal bills" for violence typified the atrocious attitude.
Trump's rhetoric represents a segregated America the United States doesn't want to be. He incites something more than bullying. His words encourage xenophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and racism. So much so that, in 2017, the FBI reported a 17-percent increase across the board for all categories of hate-crime motivations (i.e., race, religion, sexuality, etc.).
In 2009, Rep. Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act." Congress passed the bill, authorizing the Office of Justice Programs to award grants to combat hate crimes and increased DOJ personnel to assist state and local law enforcement. The bill was a step in the right direction, and worked in the Obama years, but we need new action.
The United States must not regress into a nation that emphasizes and criticizes our innate differences. The proliferation of the religious and racial partition of America threatens the very foundation upon which the country was established--Poway is just the latest example. Places of worship should not need security cameras and ADT posters to warn away murderers.
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