The last year has seen a large increase in news and social media reports of hate crimes, often accompanying speculation that it is tied to Trump’s campaign. This picked up significantly after the election. So, is the impression real? Is there a rise in hate crimes tied to Trump’s campaign?
Well, maybe. The FBI reported a 6% increase in hate crimes nationally, and while the largest targets remain blacks and Jews, the largest increase in reported hate crimes was against Muslims. Intuitively, this makes sense. Trump used hateful rhetoric and urged his supporters to violence.
Some of these reported hate crimes are well known and have made national news. 18 year old Yasmin Seweid took to facebook to recount a horrible story about three trump supporters attacking her and trying to steal her headscarf on a New York subway, while other people just watched. This story quickly went viral and gained national attention. So did Adam Saleh’s video of himself being kicked off a Delta Airline flight because his speaking Arabic made the other passengers uncomfortable. And given our history, it was not surprising when the story of a predominantly black church in Mississippi was set on fire with the words “Vote Trump” spray painted on the side of the building made national news.
Taken together, these reports tell a chilling tale of growing racism and an America lashing out at minirities. There’s only one problem with that narrative: all three of those hate crimes are hoaxes. Yasmin Seweid was not accosted by three Trump supporters, she was simply afraid to tell her parents she had been out drinking with her Christian boyfriend. Adam Saleh was not kicked off his flight for speaking Arabic, he was kicked off for yelling and disturbing other passengers, and then rebooked on another flight. Saleh had previously admitted he faked a video of anti-Muslim bigotry. As for the black church that was set on fire with “Vote Trump” on the walls, that was done by a black parishioner.
These hoaxes are nothing new. They have gone on for years, primarily around college campuses. Many of these hoaxes are justified by supporters as necessary to bring attention to real racism, although they never quite get around to explaining why fake hate crimes are necessary if racism in America is as prevalent as they say.
Regardless, these hoaxes are an assault on our society. These recent Trump inspired hoaxes are a slander against the 63 million Americans who voted for the president-elect, most of whom are good and decent people who I believe made the wrong decision, but without hatred in their hearts.
But the hoaxes aside, there is still racism in our country. However, the hoaxes give everyone legitimate reasons to question if every hate crime is even real. Why shouldn’t we assume that every story of an immigrant, Muslim, or minority that gets attacked is just another hoax? By exaggerating the racism that does exist, these hoaxes give people permission to assume no racism exists. By slandering their opponents, the hoaxers have hurt their own cause.