Trump and Police Violence – The Tipping Point

Amnesty International 2017

Amnesty International posted the remarks on the left following a speech by President Trump at a police event in Suffolk, N.Y. It got me thinking about this president and hate.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) tracks hate groups in the United States and in 2017 they have found a 197% increase in the total number of anti-Muslim hate groups up from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2017, 663 is the total number of anti-government ‘patriot’ groups in 2016, 130 is the number of Ku Klux Klan groups in 2016.

The United States defines hate crime through the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. § 534) as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) measures crimes perceived by victims to be motivated by an offender’s bias against them for belonging to or being associated with a group largely identified by these characteristics. For a crime to be classified as a hate crime in the NCVS, the victim must report at least one of three types of evidence that the act was motivated by hate: (1) the offender used hate language, (2) the offender left behind hate symbols, or (3) police investigators confirmed that the incident was hate crime.

We know from FBI and SPLC data that one factor that stood out as a predictor of hate crimes and hate incidents in a given state: income inequality. States with more inequality were more likely to have higher rates of hate incidents per capita. This was true both before and after the election, and the connection held even after we controlled for other relevant variables.¹

Hate crime is widely reported on social media, videos appear daily on Facebook, Instagram, and many others so why does the president choose to further incite the violence? To stoke a base of his supporters and make the evening news. As Trump rails against fake news, he loves to be covered by the media, some reports suggest he records and watches news from a certain network.

Violence against people seen as the “other” is the simplest form to attack, no real facts are needed just an anecdote, real or imagined will do.

Mapping Police Violence shows 160 black people killed by police in 2016, on pace with the 2015 body count of 309.

Hate by police is a special type of hate. Police hold authority through the interpretation of the law to people’s lives. In an instant your house might be raided, you are pulled over while driving, stopped while walking, arrested for selling water, any number of reasons and escalation happens quickly, often without warning. Police are human beings, they hold biases as all of us do, the difference is to act on them with impunity or not. Police are trained against violence, use violence as a last resort.

The President conflated proper policing with the removal of civil and human rights by police on an uncharged individual. This President has shown no compassion or understanding of rights, outside his own, real or imagined rights, how due process occurs, and use of the bully pulpit as Teddy Roosevelt called it. The President of the United States has the loudest megaphone in the room, everything he says is important and potentially damaging.

The remarks were rebuked by mainstream media and many police departments, local, state, and federal so hope is still possible.

The President has laid forth an “us v.them” or demonize “the other” strategy, first to get elected and now to further sow the seeds of discontent among the populace. A popular strategy since his election in France, Greece, Germany, and United Kingdom to name a few. In some places the strategy overtly worked, Brexit in the UK, while in others Marine Lé Pen in France she lost the election but has fanned the flames of the far-right to a frenzy. Liberals struggle to counter the argument with facts, discussion, and calls for dialogue which run counter to the screaming far-right caricature created by the left.

The President has given credence to this caricature with his use of 140 character Twitter. A short attention span (argument for another day by this curmudgeon) device that he uses to attack, fawn, reject, approve of people, places, and things. Hillary Clinton ran on her proposal ideas, all laid out on her website in millions of words, while Trump put forth a few ideas and few words to explain the ideas.

This did not matter, the counter-argument to the left was people don’t want to read, they want it boiled down into sound bites and headlines. A cogent argument requires more than 140 characters, the give and take of a dialogue requires many more words.

The President’s speech gave the sound bites and continued his pattern that brought him to the White House.

Let us hope cooler heads and logc prevail.

If you would like to find out more; The SPLC538.comAmnesty Int’l (English language)

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