Last week, we reached what seems to be another new low in the actions of our President. The week began with what should have been a great celebration of the historical accomplishments of the Navajo Code Talkers during the war. The President used this event as an opportunity to take a shot at a political rival. Those who serve in our armed forces do so not because of political party, but to honor the ideals of our country.
The President then followed these comments on Wednesday by re-tweeting a series of videos with the apparent intent of creating hatred towards Muslims. In the case of one video, it was proven to be a false implication of a Muslim immigrant. Drawing source material from the group Britain First clearly matches our President’s calls for America First, but further reveals a disturbing connection to a group widely described as fascist, racist, hateful, and extremist by many British leaders. The tweets even brought rare condemnation from a fellow state leader in British prime minister Theresa May.
It is clear through these tweets and other statements that the President continues to attempt to build the case for his Muslim travel ban, while claiming it is not a Muslim ban. Promoting hatred for a group of people distinguishable only by their religion is a dangerous path to follow for us as a nation. We have seen where unrestrained hatred for a group can lead to the unconstitutional incarceration of 120,000 people.
To close out the President’s week of offensiveness, a video surfaced of him mocking the Japanese dignitaries he met with on his recent Asia trip. A minor offense in comparison to the videos of earlier in the week, but a continuance of a pattern of disrespect and disregard for minorities, and again setting the tone for this country that it is okay to mock people because of their ethnicity or their social customs just because they are different.
While the hatred comes from the top, we are seeing it permeate all levels of our society. The FBI recently released hate crime statistics for 2016 indicating significant increases in crimes targeting people for race/ethnicity/ancestry, gender identification, and religion, particularly Jewish and Muslim individuals and institutions. Charlottesville has already faded from the conscience of our country, but the images should not be forgotten of Nazis walking the streets and surrounding a synagogue with their chants of “blood and soil.” Through the first three months of 2017, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) tracked an 86% increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the first quarter of 2016.
The hatred is not limited to the extreme right following the President’s lead. In recent weeks we have seen one of the President’s own appointees, FCC Commission Chair Ajit Pai, has been the target of racially tinged vitriol and threats because of his announced policy decision to remove net neutrality protections established under the previous administration. While we may disagree with the removal of net neutrality protections, we can express that opposition with civility and respect. There is absolutely no place for threats to his family or on the basis of his Indian ancestry.
Repeatedly, the President has made it clear that unless you are like him, white male, you are not deserving of respect. Unfortunately, this sentiment of hatred because of race, religion, or ethnicity is extending beyond the White House and unchecked, could grow into one of our nation’s few non-partisan issues. As a community, Japanese Americans know exactly where that type of unfettered hate can lead our country and we call on all Americans to state emphatically that this race, ethnicity, and religion based hatred cannot be tolerated.