The last few weeks have been full of unrest in our nation. For some of our fellow citizens, it has been downright dangerous.
While some might feel their individual choice to vote for the Donald Trump was not intended as an endorsement of the discriminatory and negative rhetoric he used on the campaign trail, his election did indeed embolden those who harbor hate against racial and religious minorities. We have seen the evidence of this in the hundreds of hate crimes that have occurred since Election Day, as the Southern Poverty Law Center reports.
This isn’t simply post-election violence. It is an extension of the increase in incidents of violence against Americans who are Muslim that we saw throughout 2015. The FBI statistics released last week showed that hate crimes against Muslims in our country rose 67 percent, and other reports have shown that they are at their highest since just after 9/11.
When I heard last fall that members of the mosque in Lexington, Kentucky — my own hometown — had received death threats, my heart sank. In my work, I hear about incidents like this all the time, and it is painful every time. But it’s most painful when it’s my own community, where I was born and raised, learning to love my neighbor and extend hospitality and generosity to everyone.
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I have talked with many friends who feel angry and hurt by the outcome of the election; they feel that many Americans decided that the lives and well-being of racial and religious minorities weren’t that important to them, in the end. I have also talked to many friends who voted for Trump, who didn’t like his rhetoric, but felt that he was the best hope for the country. But the hate and bigotry came with the package, and we’re going to have to all work to actively address it, if we are going to heal.
We cannot heal through calls for unity or civility that do not address the people and policies that will continue to harm and marginalize minority groups. There has been talk of a registry for Muslims and an immigration policy that uses religion as a test for entry. Several known anti-Muslim extremists have been named or floated for positions in the incoming administration.
Anyone who does not support bigotry or discrimination, and particularly those who pride themselves in standing for freedom of religion, should vehemently oppose these steps.
In President-elect Donald Trump’s acceptance speech, he promised to be a president for all Americans. That includes people from all racial and religious backgrounds. It includes those who have joined us recently, those whose ancestors immigrated over two centuries ago or were forcefully brought to these shores, and those who are indigenous. We need to hold President-elect Trump accountable to truly representing and respecting the rights and freedoms of all.
I have hope that our nation will come together across the divisions that have been revealed this year. With every incident of violence, there were numerous examples of how people came alongside individuals and communities to help and support. We are stronger when we stand united, and will work together to realize the vision of “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Catherine Orsborn, a Lexington native, is campaign director of Shoulder to Shoulder, a national campaign of interfaith organizations dedicated to ending anti-Muslim bigotry.