It’s hard to deny that some of the worst aspects of American culture are embodied by Donald Trump, the current front-runner in the Republican primary. His abrasiveness, continuous grandstanding, willingness to insult and denigrate instead of argue and his use of racist rhetoric do enough to show why such a man shouldn’t have a front desk job at the Library of Congress, let alone the Oval Office.
Now the racism that took center stage with his immigration comments earlier this year has resulted in someone being assaulted.
On Aug. 19, two brothers from Boston viciously attacked a 58-year-old homeless Latino man while walking home from a baseball game. They beat him repeatedly with a metal pole and punched him after urinating on him. Their said inspiration for this attack? Donald Trump’s racist comments on immigration.
This entire episode proves what many have been saying for years now: hate speech inevitably leads to people taking that speech and turning it into violent hate crimes. It’s happened over and over again throughout history, and it will continue moving forward when people try to utilize hate speech to their advantage.
The examples throughout American history are nauseatingly numerous. Need I remind anyone that the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh found inspiration to carry out that hideous crime in a white supremacist novel? Or what about the numerous murders and terrorist attacks perpetuated by hate speech coming from the Klan or from Neo-Nazi groups?
In fact, we only need to look back to the recent Charleston attack to see the effects of hate speech. The disgusting little toad that murdered innocent people in a church was inspired by white supremacist literature from a group known as the Council of Conservative Citizens.
These kinds of groups spew mountains of vile hate speech, sometimes subtly encouraging violence, and whenever someone goes out and commits a crime or act of terrorism, the groups get to wring their hands and act as if they had nothing to do with it. They claim “plausible deniability,” when in fact their words and positions not only create an environment in which violence can exist, but sometimes fantasize about and encourage violence or terrorism.
Let’s take one common sentiment that people like Trump and his ilk use when they talk about immigration. Something I see quite often in one form or another is the statement that “Illegal immigrants are invading the U.S.” When you look at that sentence it does two things: it implements the language of war and makes those coming here seem like a pseudo-army that needs to be combatted.
Words have consequences; the language of war is the language of violence, and introducing it into this issue is neither helpful nor conducive to a reasonable discussion. All it does is create tension, anxiety and anger.
The word “invading” intimates a violent military action when, in reality, these are people looking desperately for a better life who may not have the resources to seek legal immigration. Of course, we shouldn’t be encouraging people to immigrate illegally, but attempting to find a solution while using such violent language can only hinder it.
This is what those backing Donald Trump’s statements need to understand when they talk about this issue. Toning down the rhetoric and approaching the issue rationally is what will create a solution.
Kevan Hulligan is a senior political science major. Contact Kevan at firstname.lastname@example.org.