Editorial: Trump’s hate speech empowers domestic terrorism

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Illustration by Melissa Mills

“I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

This is a statement taken from the manifesto of Patrick Crusius minutes before he killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso.

It is a statement that mirrors President Donald Trump’s ongoing blatantly racist rhetoric. Trump has referred to immigration as an “invasion” at least two dozen times in the past year. For example, during a recent campaign rally in Florida, Trump used the word “invasion” seven times in less than a minute.

The manifesto also expresses support for the suspect in the massacre at the Christchurch mosque in New Zealand in March, which targeted the Muslim community, and a manifesto written in connection with that mass murder in which 51 people were killed.

This is not the first case in which the president’s words have empowered his avid supporters to commit hate crimes and it won’t be the last. A 2018 F.B.I report shows that hate crimes have increased for a third consecutive year, indicating that of the more than 7,100 hate crimes reported last year, three out of five were motivated by race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

The president’s hate speech is an atrocity that has poisoned the highest office of our nation and, at large, our country. The damage that his hate speech alone has caused will take decades to undo, if such a task is even possible.

This should come as no surprise. During the 2016 election, Trump received the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, who stated that Trump’s policy plans aligned with the KKK’s vision of America. Trump never disavowed the endorsement and has gone on to condone the actions of his white supremacist supporters.

Duke would go on to say that the white supremacist Charlottesville protests were the “fulfillment of President Donald Trump’s vision for America.” A statement that was also never condemned by Trump.

Despite Trump’s claims that he is “the least racist person,” he has committed to using hate speech as his primary reelection strategy. As of Aug. 7, Trump’s reelection campaign team has posted more than 2,000 Facebook ads that include the word “invasion” in reference to immigration across the southern border.

Having the president of the United States endorse hateful beliefs and echo white supremacist ideals only serves to provide extremists with a sense of impunity.

Words matter. They have an impact and they have consequences. Especially when they’re shouted by the president of the United States.