Adding Fuel to the (Hate) Fire: New Report from SAALT

Closeup of people holding candle vigil in darkness expressing and seeking hopeCommunities on Fire: Confronting Hate Violence and Xenophobic Political Rhetoric” is the title of a new report by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). The report investigates the period of November 9, 2016 to November 7, 2017, and presents the findings of more than 300 incidents of hate violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities. In this context, xenophobic political rhetoric is defined as “biased language by those in positions of power or influence such as elected officials, public figures, law enforcement personnel, hate groups, and mass media intended to target and scapegoat” the above-mentioned communities as a means political gain. Even though xenophobic rhetoric and violence have been an increasing trend in the post-9/11 era, the authors argue that the current administration continues to add significant fuel to the fire. According to the report, “One in five perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump policy, or a Trump campaign slogan, underlining a strong link between President Trump’s anti-Muslim agenda and hate violence post-election.”

The report is empirically detailed, noting that women are the most common target of hate incidents. Of the 213 hate incidents documented since the 2016 presidential election, 28 percent of the victims were women. Of those women, more than 60 percent were wearing a hijab or head scarf. SAALT cites this as an example of how the intersectionality of multiple identities, such as gender, skin color, and religious expression, all inform hate in today’s society. Young people and youth are also victims of hate violence, with 26 percent of hate incidents involving this group being targeted by strangers in random locations, or being bullied by known individuals at school.

SAALT offers recommendations and a way forward, both at the government and community levels. From repealing the Muslim Ban, and enacting legislation such as the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act and the NO HATE Act, Congress could use these bold policy decisions to improve the political climate and fight back against the normalization of xenophobia. Additionally, the Department of Justice can contribute by appropriately addressing hate crimes, and collecting relevant data from law enforcement to better understand the expanding dangers of white supremacy. At the community level, coalition building between targeted communities is a critical piece of increasing resilience. SAALT encourages communities to implement grassroots and bystander training, and provide support for victims of hate violence. In discussing the release of “Communities on Fire”, SAALT Executive Director Suman Raghunathan comments that, “the daily decay of our democracy can only be repaired by dignity and full inclusion for all Americans, regardless of faith, race, or national origin. SAALT and our allies are going to go the distance to see this demand realized.”

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