E. N. Brown: Hate Crimes, Hoaxes and Hyperbole
Elizabeth Nolan Brown, still on the case, and very level-headed about it (way more so than...uh...some people around here one could name were one so inclined...):
Several of the most prominent early reports of Trump-inspired violence against people of color were later admitted to be fabrications or directly contradicted by police statements. Pointing this out seems to really anger people, who assume my intent is discredit all such reports, or to deny that there's any bigotry among Trump supporters. Neither is true. Rather, I saw a lot of distortions being spread and a lot of people who were really scared. I heard from LGBT and Jewish and non-white friends of mine, in private communications and on social media, who honestly believed it was open season on them this week. And I didn't want to see people I care about fearing for their very lives and physical safety because of a massive amount of misinformation floating around.
This isn't helped by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which states that more than 400 hate crimes have been committed in America post-election. But the vast majority of the examples SPLC gives involve incidents like one elementary student telling another that he would be deported, or a white woman laughing at a black woman who overheard her saying racist things, or a man in a car yelling "fag" as he drove by a gay couple—things that may be intolerant, unkind, and legitimately scary for those targeted, but not what most people would conjure when they hear "hate crimes" or "hateful extremism." And pointing that out doesn't equate to condoning these acts, or dismissing the hurt and fear they inspire in people. It is simply an attempt to separate what is really happening in America right now from what is hyperbole, hysteria, or hoax.
The bottom line is that when it comes to physical aggression inspired by this election, we are looking at a little more than a dozen incidents reported, over a 10 day period, in a country of roughly 318.9 million people—none of which resulted in serious injuries. And these incidents vary widely in how much they can be attributed to politics, prejudice, and hate versus tempers, egos, and mental-health issues flaring along with the election results and our collective heightened emotional state.
The picture that emerges isn't a wave of hoaxes, a wave of attacks on minorities by Trump-emboldened bigots, nor a wave of attacks on Trump supporters by intolerant liberals—though all have occurred—but something more complex and, hopefully, a little less frightening, even if the stories that have happened are still horrible.